The Lithium-Air battery is expected to become the next best thing in terms of energy storage. It is considered a research breakthrough from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Lithium-ion batteries with excellent working parameters and specifications are already on the rise but the lithium-air battery offers even better specifications such as energy density and weight.
Lithium-air is described as the lightest and most efficient energy storage technology available. Lithium-air batteries could deliver five to ten times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. Batteries supply electrons by undergoing reversible chemical reactions. But, the lithium-air batteries work in a different manner. At one electrode, they have pure lithium metal rather than a lithium-containing chemical. At the other, the lithium reacts with oxygen in the air. When the battery is charged, this reaction is reversed, and the oxygen is returned to our atmosphere.
But, the new technology has drawbacks too. They have a lifespan of about a month because both oxygen and metallic lithium are pretty reactive and also because air offers a lot of things other than oxygen that can react. So, a lithium-air battery requires pure oxygen which is not feasible enough. Thus, more research is needed in order to understand how to protect against reactions with elements other than oxygen in thin air and also, on how the resulting battery can survive hundreds of charge/discharge cycles in an air-like atmosphere.
More technical details are available in the journal Nature, under the title, “Lithium-Oxygen Batteries with Long Cycle Life in a Realistic Air Atmosphere,” after the publication date of March 22.
There are still limitations before this new technology gets accepted in Electric Vehicle market. So far, the battery has maintained its performance over 700 charging cycles, which is much better than previous attempts but still not quite enough for road-ready purposes.
Credits for building, testing, analyzing and characterizing the new energy storage technology has been given to University of Illinois, Chicago. But, partial credits also go to Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) and the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) for high-performance computing. The ALCF and CNM are DOE Office of Science User Facilities, both located at Argonne.