Battery scientists in the US believe they’ve overcome a major obstacle to the development of lithium-air batteries. Such batteries have the potential to store electricity at up to five times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries but inherent shortcomings have thwarted their development.
Current lithium-air batteries – in which the metallic lithium of the anode reacts with oxygen from the air – store energy in the form of chemical bonds of oxide compounds. Versions tested to date have stored and released energy from lithium peroxide, an insoluble substance that disrupts the battery’s electrode.
Battery scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory developed a prototype that they claimed had the ability to produce only lithium’s superoxide, not peroxide, as the battery discharges. Unlike lithium peroxide, lithium superoxide breaks down into lithium and oxygen, thereby offering the possibility of a battery with high efficiency and good cycle life.