Time to let go of lithium-ion batteries and get ready for lighter, longer-lasting lithium-air cells – especially now that a research team at MIT has figured out how to make them even lighter and get far more energy from them.
Lithium-air batteries “inhale” air to use oxygen as part of their electrical reactions, eliminating the need for some metals and other, heavier components. Also, because the cells can pick up air on the fly, lithium-air batteries can squeeze as much as 700 percent more electricity from a charge than their lithium-ion forebears.
But there have been obstacles. The batteries don’t last long; air has to be dehumidified and cleaned of carbon dioxide before the battery can use it; and a pump needs to shuttle gases in and out.
The MIT researchers ditched the open-air design and, instead, sealed the battery with oxygen stored inside as part of solid lithium compounds stabilized with cobalt oxide glass. The new design can’t be overcharged – which would fry the battery – and promises a life at least as long as lithium-ion technology.