Technology

New Lithium Battery Is Five Times Better Than Current Ones

January 23, 2016 | by Alfredo Carpineti

Photo credit: Could Lithium-ion batteries soon become a thing of the past? anaken2012/Shutterstock

Anyone with a smartphone has had battery woes. It might be constant poor performances or shutting off when we need it the most. We could all do with better batteries, and now researchers might have developed something of use.

An international team of scientists has developed a battery that could store to up five times more energy than today’s lithium-ion batteries. The prototype is called a lithium-air battery, because when discharged it releases oxygen. The findings were published in Nature.

The current design of lithium-air batteries uses lithium peroxide. The positive end of the battery has metallic lithium that reacts with the oxygen in the air, storing energy in the chemical bonds. Lithium peroxide is not the most efficient, though, as it binds very tightly with lithium, so researchers have been looking for an alternative approach.

The team developed a new prototype that instead stores energy in lithium superoxide, which can break down more easily, producing greater efficiency and a good battery life. A peroxide is an ion of molecular oxygen where two electrons are missing while a superoxide is only missing one. When a battery is being charged the lithium becomes a positive ion and bonds with the oxides. When it’s in use the lithium and oxide separate, releasing the stored energy.

The lithium superoxide has another major advantage: It is a closed system just like the lithium-ion batteries in current devices. Being a closed system means it doesn’t require an extra intake of oxygen or removal of components, it only requires to be charged like any other battery we commonly use.

"This discovery really opens a pathway for the potential development of a new kind of battery," Larry Curtiss, one of the coauthors of the research, said in a statement.

"Although a lot more research is needed, the cycle life of the battery is what we were looking for."

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