A University of Texas at Dallas engineer has made a discovery that could open the door to car and mobile phone batteries that last five times longer than current ones. Dr Kyeongjae Cho, professor of materials science and engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, has discovered new catalyst materials for lithium-air batteries that jump start efforts at expanding battery capacity. The research was published in Nature Energy.
"There's huge promise in lithium-air batteries. However, despite the aggressive research being done by groups all over the world, those promises are not being delivered in real life," said Cho. "So this is very exciting progress. [UT Dallas graduate student] Yongping Zheng and our collaboration team have demonstrated that this problem can be solved. Hopefully, this discovery will revitalise research in this area and create momentum for further development."
Lithium-air (or lithium-oxygen) batteries breathe oxygen from the air to power the chemical reactions that release electricity, rather than storing an oxidiser internally like lithium-ion batteries do. Because of this, lithium-air batteries boast an energy density comparable to petrol, with theoretical energy densities as much as 10 times that of current lithium-ion batteries, giving them tremendous potential for storage of renewable energy, particularly in applications such as mobile devices and electric cars. For example, at one-fifth the cost and weight of those presently on the market, lithium-air batteries would allow electric cars to drive 400 miles on a single charge and mobile phone batteries could last a week without recharging.
Practical attempts to increase lithium-air battery capacity so far have not yielded great results, Cho said, despite efforts from major corporations and universities. Until now, these attempts have resulted in low efficiency and poor rate performance, instability and unwanted chemical reactions.