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Tech Front: Promising Magnesium Ion EV Battery Progress


Can a new class of batteries powered by magnesium-ion outperform and eventually replace the current lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries used in electric vehicles?

A new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) shows that using magnesium ions in place of lithium ions could result in batteries that significantly outperform the lithium-based batteries commonly used in today’s EVs. In research published online, in advance of print in the journal Advanced Materials, the scientists contend that magnesium shows greater potential for higher-performing next-generation EV batteries than those based on Li-ion technology.

“Because magnesium is an ion that carries two positive charges, every time we introduce a magnesium ion in the structure of the battery material, we can move twice as many electrons,” said Jordi Cabana, UIC assistant professor of chemistry and principal investigator on the study. “We hope that this work will open a credible design path for a new class of high-voltage, high-energy batteries.”
Jordi Cabana, assistant professor of chemistry, University of Illinois at Chicago, was the principal investigator on the magnesium ion study.
While in its early stages, the research does show the potential for magnesium-ion batteries powering future EVs. An abstract of the paper, “Direct Observation of Reversible Magnesium Ion Intercalation into a Spinel Oxide Host,” is available online at The research is part of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne, IL) targeting advances in battery performance.

Batteries consist of a positive and negative electrode and an electrolyte. The electrodes exchange electrons and ions, which are usually of positive charge. Only ions flow through the electrolyte, which is an electric insulator so as to force the electrons to flow through the external circuit to power the vehicle or device. To recharge the battery, the exchange is reversed. But the chemical reaction is not perfectly efficient, which limits how many times the battery can be recharged.

“The more times you can do this back and forth, the more times you will be able to recharge your battery and still get the use of it between charges,” Cabana said. “In our case, we want to maximize the number of electrons moved per ion, because ions distort the structure of the electrode material when they go in or leave. The more the structure is distorted, the greater the energy cost of moving the ions back and the harder it becomes to recharge the battery.

“Like a parking garage, there are only so many spaces for the cars,” Cabana added. “But you can put a car in each space with more people inside without distorting the structure.” Having established that magnesium can be reversibly inserted into electrode material’s structure brings us one step closer to a prototype, he said.

While the findings are exciting, the scientists noted that this concept remains to be demonstrated. “It’s not a battery yet, it’s a piece of a battery, but with the same reaction you would find in the final device,” said Cabana.

The research team includes Chunjoong Kim, postdoctoral research associate, UIC chemistry, who was first author of the paper, and postdoctoral research colleagues and research faculty from UIC’s chemistry and physics departments. Collaborating coauthors are scientists and faculty from Argonne National Laboratory, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (Menlo Park, CA), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worchester, MA) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley, CA).

SME Tech Papers: Learn More & Do More

Energy-Wise Sustainability
The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST; Gaithersburg, MD) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) site ( describes a sustainable approach to manufacturing as “one that merges environmental, societal and economic concerns. Continual improvement is necessary in these three areas in order to secure the future of companies, communities, supply chains and the environment…. Companies that commit to implementing eco-friendly changes find themselves with lower operating costs, access to new markets and a more profitable enterprise.”

MEP sustainability programs include E3 – Economy, Energy, and Environment, a federal-local coordinated effort that helps manufacturers assess production processes and assists with the implementation of energy-saving projects, and the Building Construction Technology Extension Pilot (BCTEP), which focuses on training building operations staff to retune energy systems in smaller commercial and industrial buildings. Commercial buildings account for almost 20% of the total US energy consumption, with 10-30% of the energy used wasted due to improper and inefficient operations.
Bio-inspired self-cleaning hollow pore builders (B. Linke, NAMRC 2014-#4409)
Energy analysis and optimization is an ongoing process. A novel energy demand modeling approach for CNC machining based on function blocks is described in a paper by Tao Peng, Xun Xu and Lihui Wang in SME’s Journal of Manufacturing Systems ( Among other merits, the approach aids reconfigurability for different modeling tasks, support for distributed machining execution and control and data connection between high-level and low-level data.

Electricity demand response is considered a promising tool to balance the electricity demand and supply during peak periods. The mature research on implementing this concept for residential and commercial buildings has now been extended to manufacturing. In paper #4006 from the 2014 ASME Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference (MSEC), a simulation-based optimization method is developed to identify the optimal demand response decision for the typical manufacturing systems of multiple machines and buffers.

A framework for addressing the challenges and methods of joint production and energy modeling of sustainable manufacturing systems is discussed in another MSEC 2014 paper (#4068). Detailed research tasks of the framework are on the modeling of production, energy efficiency, electricity demand, cost and demand response decision making. Joint production and energy scheduling problem formulations and the solution technique are discussed, along with applications of the model in system parameter selection, rate plan switching decision making and demand response scheduling.

Process-Oriented Models

Development of a process-oriented design information model for sustainable manufacturing is described by Heng Zhang and colleagues from Syracuse University in a paper presented at the 2014 North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC; (paper #4457). The paper proposes a three-layered framework that can evaluate energy consumption for different processes under a generalized information core. The sustainability analysis of a gear design is presented to demonstrate the framework.

Sustainability indicators for discrete manufacturing processes applied to grinding technology are developed by Barbara Linke, Gero Corman, David Dornfeld and Stefan Tönissen in a paper from NAMRC 2013 (published in the Journal of Manufacturing Systems; Simple and relevant sustainability indicators are displayed as a performance profile that is individual to each manufacturing process variant. The whole procedure is executed with a grinding process case study and provides a straightforward method for evaluating sustainability of discrete manufacturing processes.

New concepts for bio-inspired sustainable grinding are developed by Barbara Linke and Jorge Moreno in a paper presented at NAMRC 2014 (paper #4409). Bio-inspired design is one promising and innovative approach to design better products and processes. The authors use bio-inspired design to find new process setups for novel grinding system components to address problems defined through an axiomatic grinding model. 

Modeling the Pillars of Sustainability

Much research has focused on developing structured approaches for considering the economic, environmental and social impacts of sustainability and how to incorporate them into decision-making tools for manufacturing processes and enterprises. Several papers from NAMRC and MSEC have presented various models and frameworks.

A NAMRC 2010 paper (SME Technical Paper TP10PUB108), by Margot J. Hutchins, John S. Gierke and John W. Sutherland, explains that “manufacturing decision makers [routinely] address the economic pillar of sustainability.” In fact, that is the pillar that has been traditionally addressed. Environmental sustainability has gained more attention in recent years, with carbon footprints, life cycle assessments and greenhouse gas emissions scrutinized according to generally accepted metrics. To characterize the more challenging social impact of sustainability, two successive surveys of academic, industry and government sustainability experts determined a set of indicators across 30 categories, six social groups and five need levels and how well the proposed indicators addressed a particular category of needs. A third survey, reported in a later paper, would further refine and rank the indicators to “develop a better understanding of the linkages between business actions and these performance measures.”

Hutchins and coauthors Stefanie L. Robinson and David A. Dornfeld expanded on this topic in a NAMRC 2013 paper (published in the Journal of Manufacturing Systems; by using a framework to understand life cycle social impacts in manufacturing from the unit-process level to the enterprise level.

A paper from MSEC 2014 (paper # 4105) presents a study on the scope of the currently available manufacturing information models to incorporate sustainability. The authors propose an extension to the Systems Integration for Manufacturing Applications (SIMA) reference architecture model and refer to it as a GreenSIMA architecture. An example was created using the injection molding unit manufacturing process.

At NAMRC 2015 (paper #60), Qais Hatim et al. present a simulation-based methodology of assessing environmental sustainability and productivity for integrated process and production plans. One consideration of the process-planning research was to avoid improving one performance indicator (e.g., energy consumption) at the expense of other ones (such as tool usage).

TechFront is edited by Senior Editors Patrick Waurzyniak,, and Ellen Kehoe,


This article was first published in the June 2015 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF

Published Date : 6/1/2015

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