Researchers bring us one step closer to the ‘ultimate battery’

A research breakthrough in lithium-oxygen battery development could now make the ‘ultimate battery’ a possibility, as a number of barriers to development appear to have been overcome. Lithium-oxygen (Li-air) has been hailed as the base for the ‘ultimate battery’ due to its energy density benefits over current lithium-ion cells. Lithium-oxygen can offer ten times the theoretical energy density of current batteries, which would enable smaller, cheaper and longer lasting cells for gadgets or battery-powered vehicles. The huge potential benefits with Li-air had been thought to be out of reach, but researchers appear to be getting closer to a viable solution. Researchers from the University of Cambridge have demonstrated a new lithium-oxygen cell that is 90 percent more efficient and more stable than previous attempts and can be recharged more than 2000 times. However, as with all these emerging battery technologies, there are a number of obstacles to overcome before we see anything close to a viable product. As we are probably all too aware, battery technology has failed to keep pace with processors and other energy-sapping components found in our gadgets, resulting in the decreased use time. So we could use an alternative. Post-lithium batteries are also seen as important in the growing automotive and green energy storage industries, where large and therefore more expensive lithium-ion batteries are seeing increased demand. If lithium demand from these sectors grows as expected, a strain on supply could make existing battery technology more expensive, leading to a drive for alternatives Lithium-air batteries have become popular in research fields over the past decade, catching up with the likes of Sodium or Li-Sulphur. Other promising areas of research include Silicon Anode technologies, Lithium Capacitors and Solid-State batteries, but there are still compromises and technical issues left to overcome. The difference between a lithium-oxygen and lithium-ion battery lies in the battery’s electrode. Rather than graphite, the researchers have developed their electrode using graphene, which you have probably heard talked about a lot before. The graphene is highly porous and is combined with lithium iodide to lower the voltage gap between charge and discharge to just 0.2 volts, making the battery more efficiency than previous implementations, which had a gap anywhere between 0.5 and 1 volt.
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