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Researchers discover lithium-air battery which lives 5 times longer than usual


In the generation of smartphones, people in local trains and metros could be seen using their hand-held devices. Some of them listing music, some playing games, surfing the Internet,  while some watching for the power source with a charger in another hand.

It has been seen that battery dying of the phone and leading to the nearest charging spot is a very annoying factor these days. However, soon this will be past, as a team of scientists from the University of Texas at Dallas has discovered a new catalyst which will make the batteries live five times longer than usual enabling the users to charge their smartphones once in a week. The researchers claim that their catalysts will make electric cars run 400 miles.

Explaining in detail, one of the team members, Professor Kyeongjae Cho said that main focus of the study was on an electrolyte catalysts within lithium-air batteries, which could result in ‘significant’ advantages over conventional solid catalysts.

“There’s huge promise in lithium-air batteries. ‘However, despite the aggressive research being done by groups all over the world, those promises are not being delivered in real life, so this is very exciting progress. Hopefully, this discovery will revitalise research in this area and create momentum for further development, ” he further added.

What is a lithium-air battery?

The lithium-air batteries are also known as lithium-oxygen batteries, which breathe oxygen from the air to execute some chemical reactions that release electricity, despite storing an oxidiser internally as that was earlier seen in lithium-ion batteries.

The lithium-air battery sports an energy density which could be compared to gasoline. With theoretical energy densities,  it has 10 times more density than current lithium-ion batteries. This high energy density provides a great potential to store renewable energy in the mobile and electric car batteries.

Practical applications

The study was conducted by Professor Cho, who was working with his graduate student Yongping Zheng. Commenting on the research, Mr. Zheng said, “The catalyst should enable the lithium-air battery to become a more practical energy storage solution.” While, Professor Cho believes that his catalyst research should open the door to additional advances in technology.

For an instance,  lithium-ion batteries presently available in the market are five times costlier and heavier than the lithium-air battery, which would allow an electric car to drive 400 miles on a single charge and a mobile phone to last a week without recharging.

However, according to Cho the practical attempts to enlarge the  lithium-air battery capacity so far has not yielded expected results, despite efforts from the two scientists and other researchers at Seoul National University in South Korea.

Until now, attempts have resulted in low efficiency and poor rate performance, instability, and unwanted chemical reactions.

Cho added, “Automobile and mobile device batteries are facing serious challenges because they need higher capacity. This is a major step. Hopefully, it will revitalise the interest in lithium-air battery research, creating momentum that can make this practical, rather than just an academic research study.'”

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