Lithium-Air battery research shows potential paths to next-gen batteries

Scanning electron microscopy images of the electrode in its pristine state, after the battery is discharged, and after the battery is charged again.

On Thursday, a group of researchers from Cambridge University released a paper showing that they had developed a laboratory model of a lithium-air battery that solved several of the problems associated with batteries of similar chemistry. Their lithium-air battery had a high energy density, and it was capable of being recharged “more than 2,000 times.” The battery was theoretically more than 90 percent efficient in its energy use, as well.

It is the great hope of scientists that lithium-air batteries will one day replace the class of lithium-ion bricks we currently use. “The lithium-ion rechargeable battery is approaching its 25th anniversary,” Professor Clare P. Grey of the University of Cambridge’s chemistry department told a handful of journalists in a phone call on Wednesday. A quarter of a century ago, that new battery composition helped pave the way for the host of portable electronics that we carry with us today—relatively light and compact, Lithium-ion batteries are better-suited for consumer tech than their predecessors were.

But no chemist or engineer would claim that the lithium-ion battery is perfect. As electric vehicles become more popular, researchers are especially excited about lithium-air batteries because they would ideally be much lighter than anything we have powering cars today, and lighter cars mean a longer driving range before the battery runs out. That’s not to mention that the lithium-air batteries would ideally have a higher energy density.

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