Posted in | Energy | Chemistry | Electronics

UT Dallas Scientist Discover Technique to Improve Battery Capacity

A scientist from UT Dallas has discovered a new method that could make mobile phones and car batteries last five times longer than the present ones.

Research by Cho and Yongping Zheng (pictured) focuses on the electrolyte catalysts inside the battery, which, when combined with oxygen, create chemical reactions that create battery capacity. (Credit: The University of Texas at Dallas)

Dr. Kyeongjae Cho, Professor of materials science and engineering, in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, has found a novel catalyst resources for lithium-air batteries that expedite efforts focused at increasing the capacity of batteries. The results of the study have been reported in Nature Energy.

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. (UT Dallas graduate student) Yongping Zheng and our collaboration team have demonstrated that this problem can be solved. Hopefully, this discovery will revitalize research in this area and create momentum for further development.

Dr. Kyeongjae Cho, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, UT Dallas

Lithium-air batteries "breathe" oxygen from the air to catalyze the chemical reactions that generate electricity, rather than internally storing an oxidizer similar to lithium-ion batteries. Due to this fact, lithium-air batteries possess an energy density equivalent to gasoline — with hypothetical energy densities that are 10 times more than that of present lithium-ion batteries, rendering them with remarkable potential for storing renewable energy, mainly in electric cars and mobile devices.

For instance, at one-fifth the weight and price of those currently available in the market, a lithium-air battery would permit a cellphone to last without recharging for a week and an electric car to drive 400 miles on a single charge.

Despite efforts from leading universities and corporations, realistic attempts to boost the capacity of lithium-air battery have not yielded significant results till date Cho said. So far, these attempts have led to poor rate performance, low efficiency, unwanted chemical reactions, and instability.

Cho and Zheng have developed new research that focuses on the electrolyte catalysts within the battery, which when coupled with oxygen, produce chemical reactions, producing better battery capacity. They explained that soluble-type catalysts have considerable benefits over traditional solid catalysts, commonly displaying relatively higher efficiency. Particularly, the team discovered that only specific organic materials could be used as a soluble catalyst.

On the basis of that background, Cho and Zheng partnered with scientists at Seoul National University to develop a novel catalyst for the lithium-air battery termed dimethylphenazine, which has superior stability and better voltage efficiency.

“The catalyst should enable the lithium-air battery to become a more practical energy storage solution,” said Zheng.

In Cho’s point of view, his catalyst study should pave the way for further advances in technology. However, it might take 5 to 10 years before the research comes into existence in the form of new batteries that could be utilized in electric vehicles and consumer devices.

Cho added that he has been giving research updates to telecommunications companies and car manufacturers, and that has attracted a significant interest in his research.

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

Dr. Kyeongjae Cho, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, UT Dallas

The study’s co-authors included scientists headed by Dr. Kisuk Kang at the Seoul National University.

Hyundai Motor Company and National Research Foundation of Korea funded this research.

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