The potential for magnesium to offer a sustainable and affordable alternative to lithium in batteries is being explored in research led at the University of Strathclyde. The study, funded by the Faraday Institution, aims to develop suitable electrolytes for use in rechargeable, high energy density batteries. They will be capable of supporting efficient and repeatable transfer of magnesium between the batteries’ electrodes and will have high stability, to withstand the operating conditions of the battery.  

The electrolytes will be tested for electrochemical performance against existing cathode materials and analysed for their performance and stability. 

The one-year study has received seed funding of £114 641 from the Institution. It also involves the National Physical Laboratory, in which Strathclyde is a strategic partner, and the University of Sheffield.  

Dr Stuart Robertson, a senior lecturer in Strathclyde’s Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, is leading the research. He said: “We are going through a period of massive battery demand, with governments setting targets for electric vehicles and increasing demand for off-grid storage, to store renewable energy … lithium is used extensively in batteries but it is not in great natural abundance and tends not to be recycled from spent batteries. Batteries in electric vehicles also need to be [very large, and] magnesium offers a natural alternative because it is much more abundant, is easier to obtain, and has competitive performance levels. “

“We have been encouraged by the performance of magnesium in experiments we have carried out so far. At Strathclyde … we will be working on the design, synthesis and testing of electrolytes along with electrochemists at the University of Sheffield and NPL.”