The single biggest challenge facing industry has been the need to develop powerful batteries that are compact which can deliver sustained power for longer periods. It is this aspect that has emerged as one of the barriers to the development of more efficient electric vehicles and powerful electronic gadgets.
There is hope in the form of lithium-oxygen batteries that are emerging as possible solutions that will work. Science magazine has published a paper of the Researchers at the University of Waterloo who have come up with options to increase the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. The paper presents methods on how this can be turned into a commercial possibility.
A practical challenge in the design of lithium-oxygen batteries has been the conversion of oxygen into superoxide and lithium peroxide as a result of battery discharge. This in turn corrodes and consequently compromises the ability of the battery to recharge. The team of researchers then hit upon the method of relying on a nickel oxide cathode replacing the carbon cathode. This was supported by a stainless steel mesh, while molten salt was used as the electrolyte. This helped them to increase the operating temperature of the battery to 150 deg C. Consequently, the researchers were in a position to achieve charging cycle rates that were thrice the results of earlier attempts. This also helped the researchers to substantially increase the energy output by more than one half.
This is more of a technology demonstrator and may take some time before it enters commercial production says Linda Nazar, one of the authors of the study. One of the practical considerations of such concepts that are tested in labs and the product of research is the need for the same to prove themselves over many lifecycles to be able to compete with the models in the market. However, the research and the subsequent results are a step in the right direction and can surely help in building other designs more effectively as has been supported by MIT researchers who wrote about this discovery, stating that the discovery unleashed multiple opportunities for offering better alternatives to existing lithium-ion batteries and storage options