Published on January 26th, 2016 | by James Ayre


Lithium-Air Batteries With 5x Energy Density Lithium-Ion Batteries

January 26th, 2016 by  

Originally published on EV Obsession.

A new lithium-oxygen battery design based around the use of lithium superoxide (LiO2) — promising an energy density up to 5 times higher than that of conventional lithium-ion batteries — was recently demonstrated by researchers at Argonne National Laboratory.

The new battery design — created in cooperation with researchers elsewhere in the US and in Korea — was described in a paper published recently in the journal Nature.

lithium air batteries

Green Car Congress provides more:

The major advantage of a battery based on lithium superoxide, Argonne battery scientists Larry Curtiss and Khalil Amine explained, is that it allows, at least in theory, for the creation of a lithium-air battery that consists of a closed system. Open systems require the consistent intake of extra oxygen from the environment, while closed systems do not — making them safer and more efficient.

Here’s an excerpt from the paper:

These studies also suggest that it might be possible to form LiO2 alone for use in a battery. However, solid LiO2 has been difficult to synthesize in pure form because it is thermodynamically unstable with respect to disproportionation, giving Li2O2.

Here we show that crystalline LiO2 can be stabilized in a Li–O2 battery by using a suitable graphene-based cathode. Various characterization techniques reveal no evidence for the presence of Li2O2. A novel templating growth mechanism involving the use of iridium nanoparticles on the cathode surface may be responsible for the growth of crystalline LiO2. Our results demonstrate that the LiO2 formed in the Li–O2 battery is stable enough for the battery to be repeatedly charged and discharged with a very low charge potential (about 3.2  volts).

“The stabilization of the superoxide phase could lead to developing a new closed battery system based on lithium superoxide, which has the potential of offering truly five times the energy density of lithium ion,” stated Khalil Amine.

“This discovery really opens a pathway for the potential development of a new kind of battery. Although a lot more research is needed, the cycle life of the battery is what we were looking for,” stated Larry Curtiss.

As always with battery research… while this certainly sounds exciting, a wait-and-see approach is probably the best choice here.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • terre

    Wait and see and hope for the altruism to kick in before another environmental disaster? Shouldn’t we be encouraging our local politicians and leaders to support initiatives that offer sustainable alternatives? I don’t understand why PACE is not employed more, especially in Florida. And apprenticeships that teach those interested how to develop and install solar and wind any place possible.

  • Ernie

    I seem to recall that Lithium-air batteries require that you dump the byproducts of the lithium-air reaction. As such, this becomes more a fuel system than it is a battery system. With a different kind of pollution, I might add.

  • vensonata

    This one I take seriously. Closed system is safe and efficient. The only thing that is really a question is cycle life. And cycle life may be overrated…what is really meant is cost per kwh. High cycle life makes the bottom line look more palatable, but often the question remains “can you actually really use all the cycles?” If not, then the economics is not real. Like a huge bottle of vitamins on sale which will expire before you eat half of them. Maybe you want the smaller more expensive bottle that you actually will finish.

    • Riely Rumfort

      Expried vitamins may lose potency but most are still able for use, truly once you reach 8,000 cycles you can call it good for house and automobile storage(20 years charged once daily).

      • vensonata

        This is an interesting topic which I think most people have not thought through completely. An article should be done on it. You see even with the Tesla 7 kwh powerwall at 5000 cycles one cycle per day is 14 years. But what if you need more than 7 kwh? Then you buy two. Now if you use say 10 kwh day you will end up with 25 years. And that is a long time in the new battery world. What is a better solution is one high cycle battery which is rated for your shortest night. After that, a lower cycle battery for up to one, two or even three days storage. The number of times per year cycling for a full day is much smaller, let alone a two day period. Those batteries need to be very, very cheap indeed to make sense and usually low cycle and cheap go together. I wish I had more skill in graphics to illustrate this but alas, no.

        • Riely Rumfort

          Discharge rate and depth is also a very important factor, for this reason having the load spread over extra capacity furtherly extends product life.

          • vensonata

            Yes, that is “almost” a problem. Batteries lasting too long!!! Who would have thought it. But it actually is a real problem. That is why industrial lead acid is still not out of the picture for home storage. Hup Solar one is flooded lead acid. They cycle 2100 times to 80%. If you put together a 40 kwh bank you will still likely be using it more than 20 years later.. Right now the LCOE of that battery is 12 cents kwh. The best in the industry. Then there are sodium batteries Aquion. 3000 cycles at 100%. 6000 at 50%. About 15 cents kwh. So there you go, some choices.

          • Riely Rumfort

            Oh I know the choices 🙂
            By price;
            Lead-Acid, Aquion, Li-Ion, Lithium iron phosphate, Lithium Titanate, Vanadium flow.
            To me there are 2 primary measures, Energy stored over the product life divided by cost and meeting the cycles criteria for the application.
            Aquion, LiFePO4, and Li2TiO3 are my main considerations unless major gains are made in Flow batteries which drop cost drastically or one of the new comers takes off.

          • PeteInOz

            I think Riely’s ‘2 primary measures’ should be qualified to include an additional parameter – that being the amount of energy that can actually be used per cycle. As we know, the utilisation of Li-Ion storage only realises about 80% utilisation due to depth of discharge limitations, where as flow battery storage can reportedly provide upwards of 100%. However, on face value, the latter seems to be prohibitively expensive for the average punter at the moment.

          • Riely Rumfort

            Depth is calculated into Storage over life span.
            If it’s for example a battery with 1000 cycles at 80% DOD, that’s equivalent to 800x the capacity. Also the inconvience of a battery which only capable of 50% Discharge depth is factored in as an instability factor, meaning you have to monitor and baby the battery. You can kill a Lead-Acid in 300 cycles with a full fill and discharge regament, a Lithium Titanium can discharge 100% rapidly over 8,000 times, mistakes are forgiven. There are also those touchy to temperature or discharge rate, where application justifies price.

          • vensonata

            Ah, I see you are also a battery connoisseur! Welcome to the club.

  • Jamset

    Surprised that this would be rechargeable.

    Maybe it is feasible to have single-use Li-ion batteries for buses that get recycled after the battery goes flat. It would be cheaper to run than diesel engines.

  • Marion Meads

    Maybe ten years before commercialization? Big chances of this not reaching the market.

    • Joseph Dubeau

      Not even a working cell to test in the lab.

      • Riely Rumfort

        Everything starts somewhere, it’s a step in what may be the right direction.

    • John Buck

      It could be really important in electric aircraft.

  • Jens Stubbe

    What a lousy article.

    Data please.

  • Chris Simmons

    I thought half the point of lithium-air batteries was that you don’t have to lug the air around so that the energy density is relatively high. So why this talk of a closed system being a good thing?

    • Ken Sherman

      I believe moisture (water vapor in the air) is a real problem. A closed system could eliminate that.

      • Riely Rumfort

        And air impurities.

    • John Buck

      …AIR IS REALLY LIGHT! A super low density mean it makes sense, however, the oxygen tank could be dangerous, and may increase the price by a bit. However, this would result in 5 times the range. This would leave BEVs with a cheap range that extends far further than petrol cars. This would quite literally, force the competition to go electric, or die. Considering Tesla invested in titanium panels to protect their batteries, the danger will likely be reduced with heat resistant materials and much better cooling. Also, this solves the winter problem. BEVs had issues in the winter, with water, ice and snow, and the cold reducing the range. With this, you could easily go over 1000 miles(maybe 1500 miles) in Model S without re-charging. Also, an ultracapacitor, could allow for quick discharge rates. So you would have a capacitor to accelerate to top speeds. Let’s say 25 kwh, that’s about 5% the range (possible 100 kwh model S), that would mean releasing the energy needed to go over 50 miles at 60 mph, in a few seconds. It could go supersonic FFS! This would mean Tesla motors could build a new roadster that would be the fastest car in the world. 0-60 in 1 second? Also, aircraft, you could finally have profitable BEAV – Battery Electric Air Vehicles. These would have a slightly further range and extra cargo than modern planes. Also, electromagnetic brakes on both the wheels and turbines could save fuel during a landing. There is also, the possibility of using magnetic propulsion to create an electric jet. Microwaves and magnetic fields could superheat the air after it passes through the turbine, this could allow higher speeds with a lower electric motor hp. That means cheaper planes. If done properly, along with new manufacturing techniques, and better materials, the plane would last longer, be cheaper to use, and could extend the range with solar panels by as much

  • Hans

    title is incomplete and should actually be:

    ‘Lithium-Air Batteries With 5x the Energy Density of Lithium-Ion Batteries might be possible somewhere in the future’, researchers speculate

  • omar

    Exactly as you said: exciting but we have to wait

  • JamesWimberley

    Wait-and-see is the best policy for observers like us. I hope some public or private early-stage investor is saying “worth a bet”.

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