Researchers looking to bring the next generation of battery to market have focused on electrolyte catalysts inside the battery as they attempt to unlock the potential of lithium-air technology.
Scientists at the University of Texas, US, believe soluble-type catalysts possess significant advantages over conventional solid catalysts particularly 5,10-dimethylphenazine (DMPZ).
The findings by Dr. Kyeongjae Cho, professor of materials science and engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, along with UT Dallas graduate student Yongping Zheng were published in Nature Energy.
Based on their findings, Cho and Zheng collaborated with researchers at Seoul National University to create a new catalyst called dimethylphenazine, which, they say, possesses higher stability and increased voltage efficiency.
“The cycle stability can be enhanced by about three times with DMPZ catalyst, even the other parts of the cell (anode and cathode) are not optimised yet, attributing to the low charge potential when applying this soluble catalyst,” said Cho.
The potential for the lithium-air batteries as a one chemistry fits all application solution rests on three factors: cost, weight and increased energy density.
However, practical attempts to increase lithium-air battery capacity have so far have resulted in low efficiency and poor rate performance, instability and unwanted chemical reactions, Cho said.
“There’s huge promise in lithium-air batteries. However, despite the aggressive research being done by groups all over the world, those promises are not being delivered in real life.
“So this is very exciting progress. Zheng and our collaboration team have demonstrated that this problem can be solved.
“This is a major step. Hopefully it will revitalise the interest in lithium-air battery research, creating momentum that can make this practical, rather than just an academic research study.”
However, like other lithium based technologies such lithium-sulfur, Cho, says it could take five to 10 years before the research translates into a market ready battery.
First issues such as dendrite build-up, lithium hydroxide killing the anode, peroxide destroying electrolytes during discharge must be addressed. Read more on lithium-air technology here
Picture: Yongping Zheng