Growing a Stable, Rechargeable Zinc Anode

By using a new approach, scientists grew a battery that is 10 times more stable than regular batteries

Illustration shows a comparison between a conventional anode (left) and an epitaxial grown anode (ri enlarge

The illustration shows a comparison between a conventional anode (left) and an epitaxial grown anode (right). Image credit: Science 366 (6465), 645-648 (2019)

The Science

By using a layered deposition approach, scientists grew a rechargeable zinc (Zn) anode battery that was 10 times more stable than regular lithium-ion batteries.

The Impact

Zn-anode batteries are a low-cost way to handle the intermittent supply of electricity generated from solar or wind; this study addresses their promising applications.


The conventional lithium-ion battery has many advantages; it’s lightweight, it holds its charge, and it’s not exorbitantly expensive, though it has the potential, in very rare cases, to catch fire. Another drawback is that lithium-ion batteries can’t charge as quickly and they lack the capacity to handle large surges of current.

A team of scientists have now found a way to build a zinc-anode (Zn-anode) battery that not only has a high energy density, but is low cost, robust and stable, and has a life cycle that can be significantly prolonged. Zn-anode batteries provide a low-cost way to handle the intermittent supply of electricity generated from sun or wind.

This new approach is applicable to high-energy batteries based on any metal anode according to the researchers. The team used epitaxy – using a thin crystalline layer, in this case graphene, to grow another crystalline material, zinc – to grow their anode. Because the graphene epilayer is thin and light, it adds negligible mass to the battery electrode. It is also designed to be electrochemically inert, making the deposition process reversible. The resulting Zn-anode battery therefore has all the virtues of high-density energy storage while remaining remarkably stable.

The team studied their new anode intensively using a wide variety of experimental techniques including near edge x-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy at the Spectroscopy Soft and Tender (SST-1) beamline at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), a U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facility located at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. The beamline is founded and operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

At a low rate of operation, the new zinc-anode battery is 10 times more stable according to the scientists. Application of such batteries for grid storage, however, requires the capacity to handle great surges in electricity, and that’s where the zinc-anode battery really proves its worth, with the ability to increase from 200 to more than 2,000 cycles of stable performance.

The team also concluded that the epitaxial templating technique can in principle work for any metal-anode battery

Download the research summary slide


Lynden A. Archer
Cornell University   


Jingxu Zheng, Qing Zhao, Tian Tang, Jiefu Yin, Calvin D. Quilty, Genesis D. Renderos, Xiaotun Liu, Yue Deng, Lei Wang, David C. Bock, Cherno Jaye, Duhan Zhang, Esther S. Takeuchi, Kenneth J. Takeuchi, Amy C. Marschilok, Lynden A. Archer, Reversible epitaxial electrodeposition of metals in battery anodes. Science 366 (6465), 645-648 (2019). DOI: 10.1126/science.aax6873


This work was supported as part of the Center for Mesoscale Transport Properties, an Energy Frontier Research Center supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, under award DE-SC0012673. NEXAFS experiments were carried out at the 7-ID SST-1 beamline in the National Synchrotron Light Source II at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under contracts DE-AC02-98CH10886 and DE-SC-00112704. This work made use of the Cornell Center for Materials Research Shared Facilities, which are supported through the NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center program (DMR-1719875). The work also used CESI Shared Facilities partly sponsored by the NSF MRI DMR-1338010 and Kavli Institute at Cornell University (KIC).

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