Behold The Lithium Carbon Dioxide Battery!

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Carbon dioxide is a curious thing. Too little of it and the Earth can no longer support life as we know it. Too much of it and the Earth can no longer support life as we know it. Scientists are scrambling to find new uses for it that would help lower the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere so that average global temperatures don’t get too hot.

Behold The Lithium Carbon Dioxide Battery

lithium carbon dioxide battery
Amin Salehi-Khojin. Credit: University of Illinois – Chicago

Scientists and researchers have been searching for ways to make a lithium carbon dioxide battery for years, primarily because it would have a specific energy density 7 times greater than a conventional lithium-ion battery. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that lithium carbon dioxide batteries don’t last very long. According to Science Daily, when a lithium carbon dioxide battery discharges, it produces lithium carbonate and carbon. The lithium carbonate recycles during the charge phase, but the carbon just accumulates on the catalyst, ultimately leading to the battery’s failure.

In a report published recently in the journal Advanced Materials, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are the first to show that lithium-carbon dioxide batteries can be designed to operate in a fully rechargeable manner, and they have successfully tested a lithium carbon dioxide battery prototype running up to 500 consecutive charge/discharge cycles.

“The accumulation of carbon not only blocks the active sites of the catalyst and prevents carbon dioxide diffusion, but also triggers electrolyte decomposition in a charged state,” says Alireza Ahmadiparidari, first author of the paper and a UIC College of Engineering graduate student.

The research, which was led by Amin Salehi-Khojin, used new materials in the experimental carbon dioxide battery. Molybdenum disulfide was employed as a cathode catalyst combined with a hybrid electrolyte to help incorporate carbon in the cycling process. Specifically, the combination of materials produces a single multi-component composite of products rather than separate products, making recycling more efficient.

“Our unique combination of materials helps make the first carbon-neutral lithium carbon dioxide battery with much more efficiency and long-lasting cycle life, which will enable it to be used in advanced energy storage systems,” Salehi-Khojin says.

In the world of science today, computer modeling is often a critical part of the research process. Theoretical calculations performed by Dr. Larry Curtiss and his associates at Argonne National Lab were used to deduce a mechanism for the reversible operation of the battery.

We always caution our readers that battery breakthroughs in the lab may need years of further development before they become commercially viable. Many of them never make it out of the lab at all. The lithium carbon dioxide battery, with its greater energy density, could become a vital part of the renewable energy revolution.

It might also open up commercial opportunities for carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by carbon capture technologies in the future. Use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to help lower the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. Brilliant!

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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