By Dave Brown — Exclusive to Lithium Investing News
While lithium-air batteries have received attention as possible batteries for electric vehicle applications, the technology is still in its infancy. There are a number of scientific and technical challenges that must be overcome if the engaging promise of the technology is to be realized in electric vehicle adoption. Competitive advantage The major appeal of lithium-air batteries is that they use oxygen from the air instead of storing an oxidizer internally, and as a result have extremely high-energy density. The research team suggests that the energy density of the lithium-air battery with respect to the anode could reach 13,000 watt hours per kilogram, which is comparatively close to the 13,200 watt hours per kilogram of gasoline. A United States IBM team has also demonstrated high-energy density with lithium-air chemistry. The Battery 500 coalition features an IBM-led team that includes commercial partners and four US national laboratories. The team hopes to have a full-scale prototype ready by 2013, with commercial batteries to follow within this decade. Types of lithium-air battery chemistry There are four basic chemical configurations of lithium-air batteries. Three versions of lithium-air batteries use liquid electrolytes, which include a fully aprotic liquid electrolyte, an aqueous electrolyte, and a mixed system with an aqueous electrolyte immersing the cathode and an aprotic electrolyte immersing the anode. The fourth approach is an all-solid-state battery with a solid electrolyte. The Chinese team is concerned primarily with the first architecture for lithium-air batteries, as it shows the most promise of rechargeability, and has attracted the most effort worldwide.