Exactly what goes inside advanced lithium-air batteries as they charge and discharge has always been impossible to observe directly. Now, a new technique developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers promises to change that, allowing study of this electrochemical activity as it happens.
A lack of understanding of how lithium reacts with oxygen has hindered the development of practical lithium-air batteries, the authors say—but this type of battery offers the prospect of storing up to four times as much energy as today's lithium-ion batteries for a given weight, and so could be a key enabling technology for energy storage, among other uses. Most existing lithium-air batteries suffer from large energy losses during charging and discharging, and have been unable to successfully sustain repeated cycles.
This new method for studying the reactions of such batteries in detail could help researchers in their quest to design better batteries. Such improvements to lithium-air batteries, Shao-Horn says, could potentially enhance round-trip efficiency (energy retention between charge and discharge) and cycle life (the ability to charge and discharge a battery many times). . .View Full Article