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University of Michigan researchers lay out hurdles for Li-metal, solid-state batteries

In a perspective piece in the journal Joule, researchers at the University of Michigan lay out the main questions facing lithium-metal, solid-state batteries. To develop the questions, they worked in close collaboration with leaders in the auto industry.

Major automakers are going all-in on electric vehicles this year, with many announcing plans to phase out internal-combustion engine cars in the coming years. Lithium-ion batteries enabled the earliest EVs and they remain the most common power supply for the latest models coming off assembly lines.

Those lithium-ion batteries are approaching their peak performance in terms of the EV range on a single charge. They come with the need for a heavy and bulky battery management system—without which there is risk of onboard fires. By utilizing lithium metal for the battery anode along with a ceramic for the electrolyte, researchers have demonstrated the potential for doubling EV range for the same size battery while significantly reducing the potential for fires.

Tremendous progress in advancing lithium-metal solid-state batteries was made over the last decade. However, several challenges remain on the path to commercializing the technology, especially for EVs.

—Jeff Sakamoto, co-corresponding author


Questions that need to be answered to capitalize on that potential include:

  • How can we produce ceramics, which are brittle, in the massive, paper-thin sheets lithium metal batteries require?

  • Do lithium metal batteries’ use of ceramics, which require energy to heat them up to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit during manufacturing, offset their environmental benefits in electric vehicles?

  • Can both the ceramics and the process used to manufacture them be adapted to account for defects, such as cracking, in a way that does not force battery manufacturers and automakers to drastically revamp their operations?

  • A lithium-metal solid-state battery would not require the heavy and bulky battery management system that lithium-ion batteries need to maintain durability and reduce the risk of fire. How will the reduction in mass and volume of the battery management system—or its removal altogether—affect performance and durability in a solid-state battery?

  • The lithium metal needs to be in constant contact with the ceramic electrolyte, meaning additional hardware is needed to apply pressure to maintain contact. What will the added hardware mean for battery pack performance?

Sakamoto, who has his own startup company focused on lithium metal solid-state batteries (Zakuro), says the technology is having a moment right now. But the enthusiasm driving the moment, he says, must not get ahead of itself.

Rigorous testing and data analysis, along with transparency in research, are needed, according to the U-M team.

In this context, we emphasize the importance of further mechanistic understanding of these systems using consistent testing protocols and data analysis methods, guided by practical input and design criteria proposed by automakers and other industrial parties.

—Wang et al.


  • Michael J. Wang, Eric Kazyak, Neil P. Dasgupta, Jeff Sakamoto (2021) “Transitioning solid-state batteries from lab to market: Linking electro-chemo-mechanics with practical considerations” Joule doi: 10.1016/j.joule.2021.04.001



Why cling so desperately unto Lithium??? Magnesium (Mg) and Aluminum (Al) circumvent those problems posed by Lithium. Both alternatives are by far more abundant than Li. Mg has two valence electrons and Al has three but Li only one. Hence, the potential energy capacity of Mg and Al are twice and three times as high respectively as Li. These two alternatives pose other problems than those of Li but certainly none that cannot be solved. Besides being more abundant than Li, both alternatives are far cheaper. So why not stop fussing about with Li?


Tommy Cooper would have had the answer to new battery chemistries, just like that.

In the non-magical world, progress is somewhat more difficult.

Given the prospective size of market, it seems inevitable that every viable battery chemistry and nanostructure combination will be pursued and optimized. Especially with the modern ability to screen candidates computationally.

Doubling energy density while maintaining material cost at baseline cracks open that market in the short term.


Use a sulfide polymer


You might want to read about another Solid State battery, "Researchers create new zinc-air pouch cells" ( The highest energy densities achieved were 523 Wh/kg in bipolar configuration.
More Zinc Air research from Chunsheng Wang at UMD, "A rechargeable zinc-air battery based on zinc peroxide chemistry" ( article deals with reversible issues with Metal Air batteries, he states:
"Such tailoring of interfacial structures through electrolyte properties provides a solution to the electrochemical irreversibility that has been plaguing not only alkaline ZABs but also nearly all metal-air batteries for centuries, especially those with promising high theoretical energy densities using materials with abundance, but being only feasible in alkaline electrolytes as either primary or mechanically rechargeable batteries. Examples may include magnesium-air (theoretical
specific energy: 6815 watt-hours Wh/kg), iron-air (1229 Wh/kg), or aluminum-air (8076 Wh/kg)." Note: Zinc-air theoretical energy density is 1353 Wh/kg.


Here is a rechargeable calcium battery:

There are lots of bright ideas about, which it can safely be left to mere technologists to sort the details out and get them into mass production! ;-)


Calcium is good if they can find an electrolyte

William Stockwell

Since some of you were talking about metal air batteries I have a question - a few years ago I saw some information about a magnesium air / fuel cell someone was working on - it's format was like double side magnesium foil with a very tough plastic inside rolled up like a large paper towels roll then it would go through two electrodes and the spent part was wound up on another spindle- supposedly the whole set-up was less than a hundred pounds and the roll could provide 150KWhs in 30 hours time, I've been looking but now can't find anything like it, anyone seen anything like that? it was Korean with English subtitles if that helps.


Magnesium Air batteries have been available for many years either as primary or mechanically rechargeable batteries. Primary Zinc-Air batteries are widely used in hearing aids. Primary Magnesium-Air and Aluminum-Air have been explored though never commercially developed.
The Korean Magnesium-Air fuel cell developed by KIST looked promising, though it was still a "primary battery" requiring an infrastructure to manage the supply chain. You can read about it here:
Robert Murray Hill has a DIY Magnesium Air Battery With Graphene Ink that you can build ( again a primary battery.

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