Scientists have made a new type of rechargeable battery that is up to seven times more energy-efficient than traditional lithium-ion batteries.
Storing energy is one of the greatest challenges to modern science. Part of weaning the planet off of carbon-based energy sources is being able to store more power for longer. After all, solar panels only work when the sun is shining, so when the sun goes down, that energy needs to be stored to power devices overnight.
Researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago may have found the next step in battery technology: a fully rechargeable lithium-carbon dioxide-based battery. They’ve been able to create a prototype battery that has stored and discharged through 500 cycles, and best of all, it's seven times more energy-dense than traditional lithium-ion batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries are used in most modern devices, from laptops to phones to electric cars. Each one is made of lithium cobalt oxide, whereas a lithium-carbon dioxide battery doesn’t use cobalt.
Such batteries were known to exist previously, but they weren't rechargeable. Part of the chemical process that allowed the battery to store energy meant that carbon accumulated on the catalyst during recharge cycles. Eventually, that carbon accumulation prevented the battery from recharging or even storing any energy at all.
The latest innovation from UIC changes that by allowing carbon to be recycled as part of the recharging process. “Our unique combination of materials helps make the first carbon-neutral lithium carbon dioxide battery with much more efficiency and long-lasting cycle life, which will enable it to be used in advanced energy storage systems,” said Amin Salehi-Khojin, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC’s College of Engineering.
Now that a working prototype has been developed, the next stage will be to figure out if the battery is marketable. Once the technology is proven to be cheap and efficient, we can all start replacing lithium-ion batteries with smaller ones that last just as long, or same-size batteries that last up to seven times longer.