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Experimental lithium-air battery could revolutionise electric transport

Experiments on a new concept in lithium-air batteries suggest it could store one kilowatt-hour per kilogram, four times that of lithium-ion batteries.

Mohammad Asadi, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology has published research in Science explaining the chemistry behind the new lithium-air battery that could be a game-changer in the field of electric transportation, providing ultra-high power densities far beyond current lithium-ion technology.

charging a car

The new battery design features a solid electrolyte – which has energy and safety benefits over liquid electrolyte batteries that are currently used – made of a composite of polymer and ceramic.  In combination, the high ionic conductivity of the ceramic and the high stability of the polymer allows the battery to function at room temperature, something that lithium-air batteries have hitherto been unable to do.

The battery would be able to be recharged 1000 times with only a 5% drop in efficiency, while there would be no impact on Coulombic Efficiency, which is big news because the higher the Coulombic Efficiency, the lower the electron loss, and the longer the battery life.

The one kilowatt-hour per kilogram figure is extraordinary and could conceivably make the technology applicable to heavy-duty transport such as aeroplanes, trains, and submarines but Asadi suspects this figure could be improved upon: ‘We found that that solid-state electrolyte contributes around 75 percent of the total energy density. That tells us there is a lot of room for improvement because we believe we can minimize that thickness without compromising performance, and that would allow us to achieve a very, very high energy density.’

Asadi is now seeking industry partners to develop the technology and prepare it for manufacture.

For further reading, see the special report on transport, travel and air pollution in the new issue of Air Quality News magazine

image: myenergi on Unsplash

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