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Engineering and Design of Novel Tailored Li-Air Battery Cathodes

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New improved metal-air batteries pave the way to cleaner energy

If mankind is to overcome its dependency on fossil fuels further research into clean sources of energy is needed. An EU initiative therefore investigated how to improve materials for metal-air batteries – highly efficient energy storage devices that can smooth the transition to environmentally friendly energy sources.

Transport and Mobility
Energy

Batteries are expected to play a crucial role in transforming the way in which energy is generated, stored and used in the near future. This is particularly true for the transport sector, which is the largest user of fossil fuels. However, the current maximum energy density of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries is limited due to the electrode materials, which rely on chemical intercalation. One possible energy storage solution is metal-air batteries, which provide a specific energy and an order of magnitude greater than current Li-ion batteries. The metal-air battery uses an anode made from pure metal and an external cathode of ambient air. The EU-funded project LI-AIR CATHODES (Engineering and design of novel tailored Li-air battery cathodes) developed new materials for cathodes by investigating metal-air cell behaviour using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. This approach enabled researchers to develop a quantitative model of the relationship between cathode ray chemistry, morphology and cell performance. Project partners also studied the chemistry and morphology of reaction products in order to gain a clearer understanding of how best to create cells with long lifespans. In addition, sodium (Na) batteries were investigated and compared with Li-air batteries. Results included a model validated for discharge and charge processes for both Li- and Na-air cells. Promising catalysts were investigated by studying the effects of chemistry and morphology on the charge/discharge voltages of rechargeable Li-oxide batteries. Studies also revealed higher reversibility and cycle life in Na-air batteries compared to Li-air batteries. Microscopy techniques were used to monitor the formation of discharge products, in order to provide a greater understanding of this technology for prototype development. LI-AIR CATHODES achieved a number of promising results for the Na-air battery, helping to create a prototype using graphene (which is light, cheap and highly conductive). It will also benefit the wider scientific community, particularly the fields of chemistry, physics, materials science and electrochemistry.

Keywords

Metal-air batteries, Li-ion, LI-AIR CATHODES, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, Na-air batteries

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