A Battery that Breathes Air


"Is it too good to be true?"

batteries that breathe airGigaOm, Venkat Srinivasan - The modern lithium-ion battery, which some attribute to the rapid evolution of the modern consumer electronics industry, rests on an unfortunate architecture: The anode and cathode of the battery act as cages that can hold the lithium. Those cages take up weight and volume, and the voltage of the Li-ion battery also is far below that of a more ideal battery. To further increase the energy of the lithium battery, we need to go back to our hypothetical chemists' dream battery by removing these cages.

Let us continue to use the lithium metal as the anode but find a cathode that is virtually weightless and abundant. Let's talk about oxygen—yes, the same oxygen we breathe.

The Lithium Air Battery

There is a lot of it in the world, it’s free, it’s not bad for you (far from!) and to top it all off, it can be made into a battery.

And what a battery one can make! The theoretical energy density of this battery—referred to as the non-aqueous lithium-oxygen (/-air) battery or the Li-air batter—is comparable to gasoline.

Three observations to keep in mind:
  1. Breakthroughs cannot be scheduled.
  2. What is great in theory may not be good in practice.
  3. The time it takes to make a commercial battery from a lab-scale concept is in the order of years to decades and it takes longer the more breakthroughs that are needed.
The Future of Li-Air

Not only do we need breakthroughs, but also need to consider how we'll make a high-speed, low-cost battery without getting too much extra weight and volume into other components. Many of the processes we use today will need to be re-engineered and new ones will need to be incorporated.

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