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IBM Research announces heavy-metal-free battery design; partnering with Mercedes-Benz R&D to advance the discovery

IBM Research announced a chemistry for a new battery based on three new and different proprietary materials, which does not use heavy metals or other substances with sourcing concerns.

The materials for this battery are able to be extracted from seawater, laying the groundwork for less invasive sourcing techniques than current material mining methods.

In initial tests, the new battery showed it can be optimized to surpass the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries in a number of individual categories including lower costs, faster charging time, higher power and energy density, strong energy efficiency and low flammability.

Developed in IBM Research’s Battery Lab, this design uses a cobalt- and nickel-free cathode material, as well as a safe liquid electrolyte with a high flash point. This unique combination of the cathode and electrolyte demonstrated an ability to suppress lithium metal dendrites during charging, thereby reducing flammability—widely considered a significant drawback for the use of lithium metal as an anode material.

The battery can be optimized for a range of specific benefits, including:

  • Lower cost: The active cathode materials tend to cost less because they are free of cobalt, nickel, and other heavy metals. These materials are typically very resource-intensive to source, and also have raised concerns over their sustainability.

  • Faster charging: Less than five minutes are required to reach an 80% state of charge (SOC), without compromising specific discharge capacity. 

  • High power density: More than 10,000 W/L. (exceeding the power level that lithium-ion battery technology can achieve).

  • High energy density: More than 800 Wh/L, comparable to the state-of-art lithium-ion battery.

  • Excellent energy efficiency: More than 90 percent (calculated from the ratio of the energy to discharge the battery over the energy to charge the battery).

  • Low flammability of electrolytes

To move this new battery from early stage exploratory research into commercial development, IBM Research has joined with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Central Glass, one of the top battery electrolyte suppliers in the world, and Sidus, a battery manufacturer, to create a new next-generation battery development ecosystem. Plans for the larger development of this battery are still in the exploratory phase.

Using a multidisciplinary approach combining materials science, molecular chemistry, electrical engineering, advanced battery lab equipment, and computer simulation, the Battery Lab at IBM Research draws on IBM Research’s history of advancing materials science.

In a blog post, Dr. Young-Hye Na, Manager, Materials Innovations for Next-Gen Batteries, at IBM Research-Almaden explained:

When we set out to explore solutions to the challenges associated with batteries today—and thus certain obstacles to renewable energy as a whole—we drew on IBM Research’s strong infrastructure that allows us to study how things work on a molecular and atomic level. This foundation is what has propelled our leadership in a number of areas.

Atomic force microscopy, for example, was pioneered and invented by IBM researchers. This method has allowed countless scientists, including our team building new battery technology, to study the forces and movements between materials at incredibly precise levels.

Combining this materials innovation and expertise in catalysis for applications ranging from plastics recycling to semiconductor fabrication – coupled with a deep understanding of chemical mechanisms – enabled the team within the Battery Lab at IBM Research to bring this exciting new battery technology to bear.



demonstrated an ability to suppress lithium metal dendrites during charging...
There is evidence the solvent causes the dendrites.


IBM has been quiet about batteries since they announced a few years ago (maybe 5 or 6) they were beginning development of a lithium metal battery. They were big on AI to help search for good combinations of materials.

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This could be an interesting development. IBM has many battery patents, though a recent application WO2019142060A1 that includes Dr. Young-Hye Na as one of the inventors may be a possible design. The battery includes MPN ( 3-methoxypropionitrile) + Lil + oxygen electrolyte. It also states the anode could include lithium, magnesium, or sodium. It should be noted that all of these materials lithium, magnesium, sodium, and iodine are able to be extracted from seawater.

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A little more detail. Patent application WO2019142060A1 is for a Rechargeable Metal Halide battery. The halogens could include iodine, bromine, chlorine, or fluorine (all are present in seawater). Earlier this year Chunsheng Wang of the University of Maryland described in the journal Nature a halogen conversion–intercalation battery with high energy density. This battery had a cathode of LiBr and LiCl. So it will be interesting to see what the IBM battery really is.


Thanks for the information, this is how a Congress is suppose to run.


A magnesium anode avoids the dendrite problem completely without the use of cobalt or any other expensive additive.

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