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Scientists attempt to create a new generation of lithium-ion batteries that run on AIR

Ever since the discovery of the lithium-ion battery, it has greatly contributed to the development of portable electronics, and experts predict that it will soon be used in energy storage and electrically powered transportation. Despite these advancements, however, researchers are still looking to create a power source beyond lithium-ion batteries that they believe will be more powerful, cheaper, safer, and longer lasting.

This was the focus of a study published by scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in the journal Nature. In the article, the team revealed a new design for what they call a “beyond-lithium-ion battery cell” that primarily runs on air (or what they call “lithium-air”) using charge and discharge cycles. According to Larry Curtiss, one of the principal investigators of the study, their study shows promise as “others have tried to build lithium-air battery cells that run on air, but they failed because of little cycle life.”

“This first demonstration of a true lithium-air battery is an important step toward what we call ‘beyond-lithium-ion’ batteries,” Amin Salehi-Khojin, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, added.

In previous tests, battery cells that are tested in the lab needed a separate supply of pure oxygen for them to work. These so-called lithium-oxygen batteries would then need oxygen tanks as part of their system, making them impractical for use in electric vehicles because they take up too much space. The lithium-air battery, which uses air from the outside, eliminates this roadblock. (Related: Latest lithium-ion battery uses water-salt solution, reducing risk of fire and explosion in household electronics.)

One of the main features of the battery cell is the addition of a protective coating for the lithium metal anode. This protects the anode from coming into contact with oxygen, which can degrade it. In addition, the researchers used a novel electrolyte mixture to enable the cell to be used in an air atmosphere. Based on tests conducted in an air environment, the cell was able to perform well even after 700 cycles, which exceeded previous technology.

“The energy storage capacity was about three times that of a lithium-ion battery, and five times should be easily possible with continued research,” Salehi-Khojin explained. “This first demonstration of a true lithium-air battery is an important step toward what we call beyond-lithium-ion batteries.”

According to the team, the computations that they made in the study indicated how the new lithium-air battery works in the air, as well as the factors that improve its cycling stability. They believe that this new alternative battery could be used in future studies to create a full-size battery.

“This demonstration of a lithium-oxygen battery with a long cycle life in an air-like atmosphere is an important step towards the development of this field beyond lithium-ion technology, with a possibility to obtain much higher specific energy densities than for conventional lithium-ion batteries,” the team concluded in their study.

Based on the data the researchers have presented, this could possibly be a new step in creating a new type of battery that uses a protected lithium anode, an electrolyte blend and a high-performance air cathode to give it better cycle life, long charges, and adaptability in air conditions. “This new architecture is a promising step towards engineering the next generation of lithium batteries with much higher specific energy density than current lithium-ion batteries,” they added.

Learn more about the latest developments in lithium-ion and lithium-air batteries by going to

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