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Metallic Catalysts Could Increase the Efficiency of Li-Air Batteries Three Fold

battery1 Metallic Catalysts Could Increase the Efficiency of Li Air Batteries Three FoldA team of researchers from MIT, coordinated by Yang Shao-Horn, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, materials science and engineering, has recently published a tremendous progress made in the development of lithium-air batteries (also know as Lithium-oxygen batteries). The new technology will allow batteries to store up to three time the energy of any battery that currently exists on the market.

Lithium-ion batteries are actually market leaders of the portable electronics sector but also of the electric vehicles sector. The working principle of Li-air batteries is quite similar to the one of Li-ion batteries, but the difference is that they are much lighter, providing a huge advantage over Li-ion batteries. That is why lead manufacturers in different fields such as IBM or General Motors are very interested in them.

The MIT researchers could easily change the balance towards Li-air batteries in the near future just by changing the actual electrode materials. In the paper published in the journal Electrochemical and Solid-State Letters, the researchers showed that by changing the carbon electrodes with gold or platinum electrodes as a catalyst, the efficiency of the battery will increase. This discovery will raise the bar for finding a better and cheaper alloy or metallic oxide that will output the same efficiency or even higher.

Even though this research provides us hope for the development of lightweight batteries that will also have high efficiency, there are still issues to be solved. The most important is that Lithium in its metallic form is highly reactive in the presence of moisture which will have an impact on the safety. For normal Li-ions this does not apply because of the carbon-based negative electrode. Shao-Horn is very confident that for safety reasons the batteries can function without the use of the metallic lithium: graphite can be used instead as a negative electrode.

Even though there are still lots of questions and issues to be solved, even though this research is still in its early stages, the development of the Li-air battery is “in the right direction for further understanding of the role of catalysts” said Gholam-Abbas Nazri, a researcher at the GM Research & Development Center in Michigan. The development of such a battery could take more than we would expect now but at least scientists are on the right track.


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