Magnesium DOES conduct electricity.
More Info: This alkali earth metal’s conductive properties were a key part of its initial isolation.(1) In 1808, British scientist Sir Humphrey Davy built a large battery out of magnesium and was able to pass electricity through salts, predating today’s use of magnesium in cell phones, laptop computers, and hybrid automobiles.
Currently, batteries in hybrid vehicles such as the Prius and Highlander are lithium-ion based and must rely on the accompanying power of gasoline-powered energies. However, Japanese auto giant Toyota is counting on the conductive properties of magnesium for its next revolutionary iteration.
The car company hopes to be able to introduce magnesium batteries to market by 2020.(2) Magnesium-sulfate batteries can hold twice the electrical power as today’s lithium-ion ones. However, they are more expensive to mine and manufacture, and are also not yet optimized. Much of the magnesium research for future Toyota use is being done at a research center near Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the company is confident magnesium batteries will be a critical component of future electric automobiles.
One of the major problems with the idea of relying in future on the conductivity power of magnesium for long-life batteries is the fact that it is a more difficult mineral to extract.(3) A single kilogram of magnesium requires the burning of ten kilograms of coal to power a method known as the “Pidgeon process.”
One scientist is working on a special laser powered by solar energy to target the extraction of magnesium oxide from seawater. This scientist believes that there is enough magnesium in the oceans to meet the world’s energy needs for the next 300,000 years. The researcher’s approach, dubbed the “Magnesium Injection Cycle”, in this case would not produce magnesium batteries but rather a magnesium fuel ten times denser than hydrogen.
Overall, the exceptional qualities of magnesium, including the material’s ability to store and transmit electricity, have put it at the forefront of many vanguard research projects.
(1) Chemicool.com – Magnesium, Retrieved September 12, 2011 from http://www.chemicool.com/elements/magnesium.html
(2) MSNBC – “Toyota Eyes Magnesium Batteries for Evs”, March 28, 2011, Retrieved September 12, 2011 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42274903/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/toyota-eyes-magnesium-batteries-evs/
(3) The Economist – “White Hot Energy”, April 9, 2010, Retrieved September 12, 2011 from http://www.economist.com/node/15939644