Metal-Air Battery Could Store 11 Times More Energy than Lithium-Ion

November 5, 2009 by Lisa Zyga weblog
Ionic liquids (in blue) in a beaker of mineral oil. Image credit: John Wilkes.

( -- A spinoff company from Arizona State University plans to build a new battery with an energy density 11 times greater than that of lithium-ion batteries for just one-third the cost. With a $5.13 million research grant from the US Department of Energy awarded last week, Fluidic Energy hopes to turn its ultra-dense energy storage technology into a reality.

The new Metal-Air Ionic Liquid battery is being designed by Cody Friesen, a professor of at Arizona State and founder of Fluidic Energy, along with other researchers. The key to the new battery is that it uses ionic liquids as its electrolyte, which could help it overcome some significant problems faced by previous metal-air batteries. In the past, metal-air batteries have usually used water-based electrolytes, but due to , the batteries tended to fail prematurely.

The advantage of ionic liquids, like those used in Fluidic Energy's new battery, is that they don't evaporate. Ionic liquids are salts that are a liquid at room temperature. Compared to water, ionic liquids are much more viscous, and they also conduct electricity fairly well. The challenge will be finding an inexpensive ionic liquid that works well in the new batteries, although Friesen has not yet discussed the specific ionic liquids his company has been investigating.

A metal-air battery that uses as its electrolyte could have several advantages. For one thing, it can function for a longer period time since its doesn't evaporate. Also, the batteries could offer better electrochemical stability, which means they could use materials that have a greater than zinc. Friesen and his research team hope to achieve energy densities of anywhere from 900 to 1,600 watt-hours per kilogram. This density could lead to electric vehicles that could travel 400 to 500 miles on a single charge, Friesen said.

Finally, Fluidic Energy is tackling another problem facing rechargeable batteries: the growth of dendrites that occurs on the electrodes during charging. Dendrites limit the number of charging cycles and decrease the lifetime of the . To combat this problem, Fluidic has designed a porous electrode scaffold that prevents dendrite formation.

"I'm not claiming we have it yet, but if we do succeed, it really does change the way we think about storage," Friesen said.

via: Technology Review

© 2009

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4.5 / 5 (8) Nov 05, 2009
With all the various promises of new battery technology or ultra-capacitors, i hope *one* of them pans out and becomes a commercial product in the next decade...
3 / 5 (4) Nov 05, 2009
This is great -- I wish however that the question of the length of time it takes to charge the battery had been addressed. But other that it seems to be a viable technology. I wonder also the energy required to go say ten miles and the size of the battery.
5 / 5 (4) Nov 05, 2009
Cool. My android phone battery lasts about 8 hours. that means that it would not last 88 hours with this new battery. I could finally make it to the end of the day without recharging! Also for cars, the average electric vehicle has about a 50 mile range. If you could boost that up to 500+ miles then I think people might start to buy into the electric vehicle thing. interesting.
3.8 / 5 (5) Nov 05, 2009
For a traditional family vacation, staying in motels at night, 500 miles in one day is a good average. It allows for meals, sightseeing, and stopping before the driver is exhausted. If it can recharge in ten hours, that would allow it charge at the motel or campground and be ready to go the next day. Faster charging would make "topping off" practical, with a partial recharge at meals and other longer stops.
4.4 / 5 (7) Nov 06, 2009
After all the other new battery formulas I've read about the last few years, pardon me if I don't hold my breath.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 06, 2009
In addition to recharge time, I would like to know how many charge-discharge cycles the new batteries can do without losing a significant part of their capacity.
not rated yet Nov 06, 2009
Since it (supposedly) eliminates the main cause of capacity loss, the dendrites, it should last a lot longer.
2 / 5 (4) Nov 07, 2009
Aside from electric vehicle batteries, there's likely little interest in making batteries that last longer. Unfortunately, corporate greed demands consumption, and if you reduce consumption, you're reducing the potential revenue streams of the corporation...

Why aim for an electric car that can go 500 miles on a charge? Why not aim for 2000 miles? 5000 miles?
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 07, 2009
Aside from electric vehicle batteries, there's likely little interest in making batteries that last longer. Unfortunately, corporate greed demands consumption, and if you reduce consumption, you're reducing the potential revenue streams of the corporation...

Why must small-minded conspiracy theorists obsess over their own inabilities to make it in life? If anything corporate greed inspires innovation. That's what capitalism is all about. How many batteries would a manufacturer of laptop batteries sell if they could design a battery that only need a recharge every week, month, or year? If greed kept corporations from innovating how is it that rechargeable batteries ever made it to the market?
not rated yet Nov 08, 2009
One other argument about "corporate greed" ruining the lifetime of new batteries is that a successful product will be rapidly adopted.

Lifetime is something you tamper with late in the product cycle, when you have good penetration. When everyone wants your battery, the most profitable thing to do is to make them as quickly as possible, not manipulate them with designed premature mortality.
not rated yet Nov 12, 2009
Why not a plug-in electric car with: The best battery today and ultracapacitors. They could be recharged by plugging at home or by a sterling engine on the road or at the mall. The sterling enging will run on just about any fuel and would provide ample energy to propel the vehicle at 60 mph and charge the storage system.

During acceleration the ultracaps would quickly bring the vehicle to cruising speed and during "braking" the drive motors at each wheel would recover much of it.

If we could standardize on a physical size of a battery they could be exchanged at "battery stations" every 300 miles. Low cost sterling compatable fuel would also be available there.

We would now have a light weight vehicle free of: heavy engines, exhaust systems, transmissions, cooling systems, power trains, etc. that would have unlimited range, be virtually pollution free that could outrun a corvette in a quarter mile.

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