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A Big Step Toward Creating the Next Generation of Rechargeable Batteries

Researchers have taken a crucial stride toward making next-generation rechargeable batteries, which will substitute present energy storage technology if successful.

Dr Pooja Goddard. Image Credit: Loughborough University.

Scientists from Loughborough University and the University of Liverpool have been collaborating with the British company Johnson Matthey—a pioneer in sustainable technologies—to enhance the lithium-oxygen (Li-O2) battery performance.

A new study published by the researchers in the Advanced Functional Materials journal describes a combination of materials developed by them, which are stable with a Li metal anode—the cell’s negative part.

Yet, more work is needed to enhance the materials’ stability at the cathode—the positive part of the cell. However, the discovery marks a considerable milestone in the future of energy storage, along with Li-O2 cells predicted to have up to 10 times the charge capacity of present-day batteries.

Dr Pooja Goddard, from the Department of Chemistry at Loughborough, and previous collaborators Dr Ryan Sharpe and Dr Stephen Yeandel guided the computational modeling efforts.

The Li-O2 battery remains an important and desirable target towards improving energy storage capacity for next-generation battery devices. Li-O2 batteries have remarkably high theoretical specific energy (the amount of energy stored per unit weight), and therefore the realization of a practical and truly rechargeable Li-O2 device with even a fraction of the theoretical capacity could outperform state-of-the-art lithium-ion cells.

Dr Pooja Goddard, Department of Chemistry, Loughborough University

However, one of the key technological barriers to development is the stability of materials in Li-O2 cells. If the stability and performance of Li-O2 batteries can be optimized, Li-O2 devices could enhance for example driving range capacity significantly for electric vehicles,” added Dr Goddard.

Having got financial support from Innovate UK, the paper elaborates how lithium-oxygen (Li-O2) batteries (or lithium-air battery), comprising of Li-metal and a porous conductive framework as its electrodes, discharge energy from the reaction of oxygen from lithium and the air.

According to Dr Alex Neale, the lead author of the study from the University of Liverpool, the paper illustrates that the reactivity of some electrolyte components can be turned off by accurate control of component ratios.

The ability to precisely formulate the electrolyte to deliver enhanced cycle stability and functionality and to take advantage of the use low volatile components, really enabled us to specially tailor an electrolyte for the needs of metal-air battery technology.

Dr Alex Neale, Study Lead Author, University of Liverpool

The outcomes from our study really show that by understanding the precise coordination environment of the lithium-ion within our electrolytes we can link this directly to achieving significant gains in actual cell performance,” added Dr Neale.

The study has profited from high-performance computing facilities, HYDRA and EPSRC Tier 2 Machine HPC Midlands+ (ATHENA) at Loughborough and the super national computer ARCHER as well as battery research and characterization facilities at the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy, University of Liverpool, and the Harwell XPS Facility.

Journal Reference:

Neale, A. R., et al. (2021) Design Parameters for Ionic Liquid-Molecular Solvent Blend Electrolytes to Enable Stable Li Metal Cycling Within Li-O2 Batteries. Advanced Functional Materials.


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