Researchers claim to develop first calcium-based battery technology as alternative to lithium: 'The highest theoretical energy density'

Recent battery news out of China will leave you expecting to see lab photos of researchers with milk mustaches.

But these experts aren't wasting time dipping Oreos. They claim to have invented the first calcium-based battery that can withstand 700 charge/discharge cycles at room temperature, according to a report from Balkan Green Energy News, an online sustainable report site. It's part of the work to find an alternative to lithium, the costly and hard-to-gather metal used in most batteries.

The Chinese calcium reports have been regular and impressive to start the year. Another lab summary published by Nature lists two dozen experts from multiple institutions who are involved with the science.

In a recent update, team leaders from Shanghai's Fudan University say the innovation could lead the way to a lithium-ion substitute for powering smartphones. It's a concept they have already proved in the lab. The vision is for the flexible, textile-like power packs to be woven into clothing, according to Balkan Green Energy.

Part of the successful chemistry to unlock calcium includes abundant oxygen.

The scientists said, "Calcium-oxygen (Ca-O2) systems show the highest theoretical energy density among calcium-based battery variants," all per the Balkan Green Energy story.

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A big perk for calcium is that it's 2,500 times more available on the planet than costly lithium, which (like many battery materials) is subject to foreign markets. It also has "a possibly comparable energy density," reported Balkan Green Energy.

What's more, some analysts are forecasting a worldwide lithium shortage as early as next year. There were around 595,000 tons of lithium produced around the planet in 2021. Demand is expected to hit more than 3.3 million tons by 2030, per a report from CNBC.

Lithium demand is up in part because electric vehicle sales are continuing to grow. Reuters reported that global EV and hybrid sales jumped 31% last year. While down from a 60% growth rate in 2022, the sales number remains healthy.

"The pace of growth is slowing, but that's what's expected in growing markets like this," Charles Lester, data manager for Rho Motion, told the news agency. "You can't double every year."

In addition to saving drivers money on fuel and upkeep, switching to an EV prevents nearly 10,000 pounds of air pollution from spewing into the atmosphere each year. That's about equal to the yearly air-cleaning work of more than 208 mature trees, according to information reported by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Chinese calcium concept still needs some work. Balkan Green Energy reports an as yet limited capacity and performance. Some more tinkering in the lab will hopefully produce a reliable lithium chemistry alternative, perhaps one that could even power EVs in the future.

"The Chinese scientists hope that [the tech] could be enhanced through further engineering," according to the Balkan Green Energy summary.

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