Chemists make breakthrough on road to creating a rechargeable lithium-oxygen battery

Chemists make breakthrough on road to creating a rechargeable lithium-oxygen battery
A four-electron redox process in a Li-oxygen cell is electrocatalyzed by a bifunctional lithiated nickel oxide-molten salt composite cathode at elevated temperature to form Li2O. It evolves oxygen on charge with close to 100% coulombic efficiency. Credit: Chun Xia and Chun Yuen Kwok

Chemists from the University of Waterloo have successfully resolved two of the most challenging issues surrounding lithium-oxygen batteries, and in the process created a working battery with near 100 per cent coulombic efficiency.

The new work, which appears this week in Science, proves that four-electron conversion for lithium-oxygen electrochemistry is highly reversible. The team is the first to achieve four-electron conversion, which doubles the electron storage of lithium-oxygen, also known as lithium-air, batteries.

"There are limitations based on thermodynamics," said Linda Nazar, Canada Research Chair of Solid State Energy Materials and senior author on the project. "Nevertheless, our work has addressed fundamental issues that people have been trying to resolve for a long time."

The high theoretical-energy density of lithium-oxygen (Li-O2) batteries and their relatively light weight have made them the Holy Grail of rechargeable battery systems. But long-standing issues with the battery's chemistry and stability have kept them a purely academic curiosity.

Two of the more serious issues involve the intermediate of the cell chemistry (superoxide, LiO2) and the peroxide product (Li2O2) reacting with the porous carbon cathode, degrading the cell from within. In addition, the superoxide consumes the organic electrolyte in the process, which greatly limits the cycle life.

Nazar and her colleagues switched the organic electrolyte to a more stable inorganic molten salt and the porous carbon cathode to a bifunctional metal oxide catalyst. Then by operating the battery at 150 C, they found that the more stable product Li2O is formed instead of Li2O2. This results in a highly reversible Li-oxygen battery with coulombic efficiency approaching 100 per cent.

By storing O2 as lithium oxide (Li2O) instead of lithium peroxide (Li2O2), the not only maintained excellent charging characteristics, it achieved the maximum four-electron transfer in the system, thereby increasing the theoretical energy storage by 50 per cent.

"By swapping out the electrolyte and the electrode host and raising the temperature, we show the system performs remarkably well," said Nazar, who is also a University Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Waterloo.

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More information: C. Xia el al., "A high-energy-density lithium-oxygen battery based on a reversible four-electron conversion to lithium oxide," Science (2018). … 1126/science.aas9343
Journal information: Science

Citation: Chemists make breakthrough on road to creating a rechargeable lithium-oxygen battery (2018, August 23) retrieved 19 October 2019 from
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Aug 23, 2018
Sounds amazing (also sounds years away)
Even if the oxygen has to be stored in armoured bottles or on vanadium etc. to keep free 'air' components from poisoning the Lithium metal it's still the grail of vehicle batteries.

Aug 27, 2018
Nice paper. The significance of their findings is that this is the first description of a working Li2O battery fuel cell capable of a theoretical energy density of 10.5 kWh/L, exceeding that of fossil fuels [gasoline(9.5 kWh/L)] . The authors put it this way: The "Li2O" cell presented here is akin to both fuel cells and electrolyzers—which also operate on the basis of a 4 e– electrocatalyzed reaction—in which Li2O replaces H2O, and the combination forms a simple reversible energy storage system.

Aug 27, 2018
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