Engineers at the Toyota Research Institute of North America believe that they have made a significant step towards being able to use magnesium, rather than lithium, in rechargeable batteries. Magnesium batteries would be smaller, cheaper and much safer than lithium batteries.

The first magnesium battery was made in 2000 but researchers have been unable to find an electrolyte which gives efficient transfer and doesn’t degrade the magnesium.

The breakthrough came when Toyota’s principal scientist and chemical engineer, Rana Mohtadi, realized that the properties of the hydrogen storage material (Mg(CB11H12)2/tetraglyme) that she had been working with might be conducive to a magnesium-based battery.