UDRI Engineers Create First Solid-State Lithium-Air Battery

A team at the prestigious University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) has designed a new kind of rechargeable Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery that it claims eliminates the potential overheating problems that can affect conventional Li-ion cells. The achievement, chronicled in the 2010 Issue 1 of the Journal of the Electrochemical Society, opens the door to much broader and safer implementation of Li-ion battery packs throughout all facets of industry, and has particularly critical implications for future automotive and aerospace applications. According to Binod Kumar, who heads up UDRI's electrochemical power group, the first-ever totally solid-state Lithium-air battery "represents a major advancement in the quest for a commercially viable, safe rechargeable battery with high energy and power densities and long cycle life." In addition to creating a cell with even greater specific energy density potential, the replacement of traditional liquid electrolyte with a solid non-volatile alternative is a true game changer. The UDRI battery uses an electrolyte made of a glass-ceramic material that remains stable even when it comes into contact with water. Unlike a conventional Li-ion cell that has all the reactive chemical elements inside, the UDRI design actually draws its oxygen from the atmosphere. That just-in-time feature coupled with using Lithium metal as the anode help raise its potential energy density 10-15 times beyond any existing Li-ion rechargables.

While the results so far have been extremely promising, Kumar admits that serious challenges still remain before the design is fully ready for commercialization, particularly with respect to longevity. "We made and tested more than three dozen Lithium-air batteries during the last year, and each exhibited superior performance - even at temperatures as high as 225F. We're currently at a cycle life of 40, with a goal of 4,000, which is significantly greater than the cycle life of current lithium batteries."

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