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Lithium-air battery could revolutionise the global economy

Researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory say this week that they have developed a lithium-air battery that could be a revolutionary moment for green transportation.

  • A new lithium-air battery could power long-haul road trips and air travel, new reports say.
  • Scientists hail the new battery with 4 times energy density of lithium-ion
  • The technology could keep an EV running for a trip of up to 1,600 km.
  • The tech could also be the solution to building electric aircraft.

“For over a decade, scientists at Argonne and elsewhere have been working overtime to develop a lithium battery that makes use of the oxygen in air,” said Larry Curtiss, an Argonne Distinguished Fellow.  

​“The lithium-air battery has the highest projected energy density of any battery technology being considered for the next generation of batteries beyond lithium-ion.”

The team’s lithium-air design is the first lithium-air battery that has achieved a four-electron reaction at room temperature. It also operates with oxygen supplied by air from the surrounding environment. The capability to run with air avoids the need for oxygen tanks to operate, a problem with earlier designs.

The team employed many different techniques to establish that a four-electron reaction was actually taking place. One key technique was transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of the discharge products on the cathode surface, which was carried out at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials, a DOE Office of Science user facility. The TEM images provided valuable insight into the four-electron discharge mechanism.

Past lithium-air test cells suffered from very short cycle lives. The team established that this shortcoming is not the case for their new battery design by building and operating a test cell for 1000 cycles, demonstrating its stability over repeated charge and discharge.

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