Researchers Announce A Battery That Runs On Lithium & Carbon Dioxide

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As we usually do when announcing new breakthroughs in battery technology, we caution readers that it is a long, rocky road from results achieved in the laboratory to commercially viable products. That being said, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have published a paper in the journal Advanced Materials that says they have successfully designed a lithium-carbon dioxide battery that is fully rechargeable and remains stable for up to 500 charging cycles. Isn’t it deliciously ironic that a chemical compound — carbon dioxide — which is largely responsible for our overheating environment could be part of the solution to that increase in temperature?

lithium carbon dioxide battery at UIC
Image credit UIC

According to PV Magazine, lithium-carbon dioxide is one of several battery technologies known to have an energy density far greater than today’s lithium-ion batteries. But none of them can store electricity reliably over many charge and discharge cycles.

Often the problem with such experimental batteries is an accumulation of carbon on the catalyst as the storage device discharges, a process which ultimately leads to failure. “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, lead author of the paper.

To address that issue, the scientists use nanoflakes of molybdenum disulfide as a catalyst at the cathode and a hybrid ionic liquid/dimethyl sulfoxide electrolyte material in an effort to incorporate carbon into the cycling process and prevent such carbon buildup.

“Our unique combination of materials helps make the first carbon neutral lithium carbon dioxide battery with much more efficiency and long-lasting cycle life,” says Amin Salehi-Khojin, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC.

Here’s the part that will make many readers roll their eyes. The research relies on theoretical calculations to describe the battery’s reversible operation. Nevertheless, the scientists are confident in the importance of their discovery. “This achievement paves the way for the use of CO2 in advanced energy storage systems,” they say in the abstract of their research report. Now the hard work of turning their discovery into reliable, marketable products begins.

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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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