The future of electric vehicles depends in large part on how fast the development of EV batteries goes. Lithium-ion batteries are the most popular forms of energy storage in the world, but new research on Li-air batteries could make them obsolete.

Scientists at the Illinois Institute of Technology say they have found the winning formula for commercially viable Li-air batteries.

The new battery design has the potential to store one kilowatt-hour per kilogram or more. This is four times more than lithium-ion battery technology.

The team led by assistant professor of chemical engineering Mohammad Asadi has developed a new electrolyte, a combination of polymer and ceramic. These are the two most common solid electrolytes, but both have drawbacks. Combining them provides the best solution, with the high ionic conductivity of ceramics and the high stability and high interfacial connectivity of the polymer.

The resulting ceramic-polyethylene oxide-based composite solid electrolyte allows the critical reversible reaction that makes the battery to function — formation and decomposition of lithium dioxide — to occur at high rates at room temperature, a first in a lithium-air battery.

The insights enable the team to further optimize the battery design, potentially achieving ultra-high power densities far beyond current lithium-ion technology.

“We found that solid-state electrolyte contributes about 75 percent of the total energy density. That tells us there’s a lot of room for improvement, because we believe we can minimize that thickness without compromising performance, and that would put us in to achieve a very, very high energy density. says Asadi.

According to a paper published in the journal Science, the new battery is rechargeable for 1,000 cycles with a low polarization distance and can operate at high speeds. This would be transformative for electrifying transportation, especially heavy vehicles such as planes, trains and submarines.

Asadi and his team now plan to work with industry partners as he now moves towards optimizing battery design and engineering for production.

“The technology is a breakthrough and has opened up a huge number of opportunities to bring these technologies to market,” says Asadi.

Magazine reference:

  1. Alireza Kondori, Mohammadreza Esmaeilirad, Ahmad Mosen Harzandi, Rachid Amine, Mahmoud Tamadoni Saray, Lei Yu, Tongchao Liu, Jianguo Wen, Nannan Shan, Hsien-Hau Wang, Anh T. Ngo, Paul C. Redfern, Christopher S. Johnson, Khalil Amine, Reza Shahbazian-Yassar, Larry A. Curtiss, Mohammad Asadi. A room temperature rechargeable Li2O based lithium air battery powered by a solid electrolyte. Science, 2023; DOI: 10.1126/science.abq1347