Lithium Technology


"Energy densities in lithium-air batteries up to 3x that of Li-ion."

Technological efforts are being stepped up to develop energy storage capacity for transportation. With the potential of providing energy densities up to three times that of the conventional lithium-ion batteries, lithium-air batteries are currently under research at MIT.

Lithium-air (or lithium-oxygen) batteries are similar to lithium-ion batteries; however, lithium-air batteries electrochemically couple a lithium anode to atmospheric oxygen through a carbon-based air cathode rather than the heavy conventional compounds in lithium-ion batteries. They have higher energy density due to a lighter cathode and readily available oxygen in the environment, which doesn't need to be stored in the battery. Broad research continues on various electrode materials that could promote the electrochemical reactions to occur in these batteries, including research being conducted at the University of Waterloo synthesizing a prototype of a lithium-sulphur rechargeable battery. Some MIT reports show electrodes using gold or platinum as a catalyst have a much higher level of activity and, thus, a higher efficiency than simple carbon electrodes; however, with PMs the commercial viability of such developments becomes a critical success factor.

MIT scientists are also working on lithium-iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries that can charge and discharge as fast as a super-capacitor. This new advanced development will, potentially, allow EV batteries to be charged in as little as five minutes and mobile phone and laptops to be charged in seconds. Charging typical lithium-ion cells is slower, as it takes time for the lithium-ion to move off the cathode material.

The competition to produce the most-efficient and commercially viable energy storage unit is in a dynamic state. The resources and strategic investments from governments and administrations that are being allocated toward this mandate underscore its timely importance and may also interest investors that could find strong returns in many of the lithium exploration companies, miners and battery manufacturers.

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