Lithium-air batteries ( Li-air ) have a lot of potential for powering the future. These batteries are lighter and more powerful than traditional lithium-ion batteries, making them ideal for use in electric vehicles or other technology that requires a lot of power.
The main advantage of lithium-air batteries is their high energy density. This means they can store and release more power than other types of batteries, which makes them great for powering electric cars. They also have a long cycle life – meaning they can be recharged many times without significantly decreasing their performance.
Lithium-air batteries work by combining oxygen from the air with lithium metal to create an electrochemical reaction that releases energy. This process is highly efficient and requires fewer materials than other types of batteries, making lithium-air batteries more affordable in the long run.
The potential for lithium-air batteries to revolutionize the energy industry is huge – from powering electric cars, to help us store renewable energy more effectively. As further research and development occur and the technology continues to improve, we can look forward to seeing many more exciting applications.
Chemistry of the novel lithium-air battery
One recent publication about research that brings Li-air technology closer to the market, comes from Mohammad Asadi. Assadi is an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He recently published a paper in the journal Science describing the chemistry behind his novel lithium-air battery design. The insights will allow him to further optimize the battery design, with the potential for reaching ultra-high power densities far beyond current lithium-ion technology.
The battery design has the potential to store one kilowatt-hour per kilogram or higher—four times greater than lithium-ion battery technology, which would be transformative for electrifying transportation, especially heavy-duty vehicles such as airplanes, trains, and submarines.
Asadi aimed to make a battery with a solid electrolyte, which provides safety and energy benefits compared to liquid electrolyte batteries and sought an option that would be compatible with the cathode and anode technologies that he has been developing for use in lithium-air batteries. He chose a mix of polymer and ceramic, which are the two most common solid electrolytes but both of which have downsides. By combining them, Asadi found that he could take advantage of ceramic’s high ionic conductivity and the high stability and high interfacial connection of the polymer.
The result allows for the critical reversible reaction that enables the battery to function—lithium-dioxide formation and decomposition—to occur at high rates at room temperature, the first demonstration of this in a lithium-air battery.
Bringing Li-ar closer to the market
As described in the Science paper, Asadi has conducted a range of experiments that demonstrate the science behind how this reaction occurs.
“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,” says Asadi.
These experiments were conducted in collaboration with the University of Illinois Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. Asadi says he plans to work with industry partners as he now moves toward optimizing the Li-air battery design and engineering it for manufacturing.
“The technology is a breakthrough, and it has opened up a big window of possibility for taking these technologies to the market,” says Asadi.
One company that already announced a lithium-metal battery it has in development is Cuberg, a subsidiary of battery giant Northvolt. It has reached stability that’s competitive with existing lithium-ion batteries. It is retaining 80 percent of its initial capacity out to nearly 700 charge/discharge cycles—and this has been validated by an outside testing lab.