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Argonne National Labs Ramping Up Lithium-Air Research and Development; Li-ion as EV “Bridge Technology”

21 December 2009

Li-iar-anl
A Li-air cell. Source: Argonne. Click to enlarge.

Argonne National Laboratory, which has contributed heavily to the research and development of Li-ion battery technology, is now pursuing research into Lithium-air batteries. Li-air batteries use a catalytic air cathode that converts oxygen to lithium peroxide; an electrolyte; and a lithium anode. Li-air batteries will have a capacity for energy storage that is five to 10 times greater than that of Li-ion batteries, which Argonne is characterizing as a bridge technology for electric vehicle applications.

Li-air batteries have both scientific and engineering challenges that need to be addressed. On the science side, the challenge is materials development, including creation of an advanced catalyst, a highly stable electrolyte, and efficient stabilization of the lithium anode metal. Engineering challenges include the development of high-porosity gas diffusion electrodes, ways of depositing the catalyst onto the cathode and developing a membrane to prevent oxygen crossover to the lithium anode.

The obstacles to Li-air batteries becoming a viable technology are formidable and will require innovations in materials science, chemistry and engineering. We have a history of taking on scientific challenges and overcoming them. Argonne is committed to developing Li-air battery technologies. In fact, we’ve made it a ‘grand research challenge’ at the laboratory.

—Argonne Director Eric Isaacs.

Argonne’s Dr. Khalil Amine on Li-air.

The report of the DOE Basic Energy Sciences workshop on electrical energy storage, held 2-4 April 2007, found that recent advances in lithium-air systems had achieved a high efficiency for small systems at the relatively high cell voltage of close to 3 V. This, said the report, is a system that represents a battery that could approach the energy density of diesel fuel, in the range of 8,000–13,000 Wh/kg.

Although in the near term there do not appear to be feasible approaches to larger Li-air batteries, the system “probably represents one of the few viable approaches toward reaching the energy density of a liquid hydrocarbon fuel”, according to the report.

Accordingly, there are numerous research initiatives underway, with recent reports from Japan’s AIST (earlier post), IBM’s Almaden Lab (earlier post), and the University of Dayton (earlier post) among them.

Li-air technical barriers and needs
(from the DOE report Basic Research Needs for Electrical Energy Storage)
Technical barriers and needs Component(s)
Dependence on environmental conditions, maintaining access to air while minimizing evaporation of water Cathode and separator
Limited operating temperature Electrolyte
Necessity to remove CO2 from the air to prevent carbonation of electrolyte Electrolyte
Potential for formation of shorting dendrites when charged Zinc anode, separator
Non-uniform distribution of anode material develops as a result of solution and precipitation of reaction products Anode, electrolyte
Limited power output All
Low current densities resulting from resistive electrolyte Solid electrolyte for lithium-air
Poor cycle life times  

The expectations for delivering viable automotive Li-air systems are not short-term. Development of a viable Li-air battery will require a technology breakthrough. Even given that, as with Li-ion batteries, it will take one to two decades before the technology could be commercially adopted, Argonne says.

This is not a near-term technology. It is going to take time and collaborations across several scientific disciplines to address the four main challenges of this battery development effort: safety, cost, life and performance.

—Jeff Chamberlain, Senior Account Manager in Argonne’s Office of Technology Transfer

Argonne’s Dr. Michael Thackeray on Li-air.

Argonne National Laboratory has engaged in battery research and development for more than 40 years. More than 10 years ago the research facility made a strategic decision to expand its research of Lithium-ion batteries, with a particular focus on developing applications for electric cars. That decision, and subsequent investments for research by the US Department of Energy, have yielded technology transfer agreements, 149 inventions, more than 40 patents and four R&D 100 Awards.

Argonne has worked with several industrial partners on the commercialization of Li-ion batteries and battery materials, including companies such as EnerDel, Envia, BASF and Toda America. The lab is working with the Commonwealth of Kentucky to develop the Kentucky-Argonne National Battery Manufacturing Center, which will support the development of a viable US battery manufacturing industry.

More recently, DOE awarded the lab $8.8 million to build out and outfit three battery research facilities that will be used for battery prototyping, materials production scale-up and post-test analysis.

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Why not other metals like zinc, aluminum or magnesium, these metals are cheaper? Why not a metal nano-particle paste flow cell for easy refueling and recharging?

More good news.

This is but one avenue for future 500 to 1000 Wh/Kg higher performance batteries.

By 2020/2025, BEVs with 500+ Wh/Kg batteries and 500+ Km e-range will be common place.

Noisy, stinky, polluting ICE machines will be gradually retired.

Ben

Zn/ air battery is being developed by Revolt. Al doesn't work because it forms chemical compounds that nobody has been able to show that they could be reversed. Sodium / air battery is probably an option it is way cheaper and more abundant than Lithium but has very similar properties than Lithium, but it has a low melting point, and is extremely reactive with water (but lithium too)

Harvey
if these people say it will take one or 2 decades to develop it means that it is totally speculative at this point. Be aware that metal / air battery is absolutely not a new, their cycle ability is just a show stopper, so far.

ICE will still be the main stream at 90% in 2020, unfortunately not EV

"Argonne National Laboratory has engaged in battery research and development for more than 40 years. "

"..is now pursuing research into Lithium-air batteries."

"The expectations for delivering viable automotive Li-air systems are not short-term. Development of a viable Li-air battery will require a technology breakthrough. Even given that, as with Li-ion batteries, it will take one to two decades before the technology could be commercially adopted, Argonne says."

How on God's Grey Earth did America ever once get to the moon?

Sounds like government work

Argonne should be researching barium titanate ultracapacitors --- they might make more progress than that other company.

Research labs are not production labs. The people of the US have been trained by their politicians to believe in false things. Automobiles are not dangerous but Nuclear reactors are. Nuclear reactors produce massive amounts of nuclear wastes that cannot be safely stored, and ignore the operating Waste Isolation Pilot Project, But drink and drive. There is no radio-activity in the human body not even the unstable potassium isotope so any nuclear radiation is dangerous, but go ahead and fly in the multiplied nuclear radiation at high altitudes in airplanes and live at high altitude Denver instead of New Jersey.

Internal combustion engines are no longer Dirty. CO2 is not dirty. Every plant and animal expels CO2. Small external combustion stirling range extenders can be built at far lower cost than batteries and certainly less than hydrogen fuel cells. Liquid ammonia is a good way to store hydrogen for a carbon free fuel. Butane or Propane might be the best automobile fuels.

Hydrogen can be produced with temperatures developed by collecting the sun's rays, and it will cost less to collect than using corn ethanol. But it is more efficient to use stirling engines or even turbines to change the heat into electricity for electric cars.

Lead Acid batteries are adequate for most automobile trips and so are nickel cadmium units. Zebra Batteries are far more than adequate.

Just see how slow Firefly products have been brought to the general market once Firefly became a government research lab. The owners are getting enough payback without selling product into the general market. Perhaps their product does not really even work. No foam positive plates have been announced. No new products with their corrosion resistant positive grid have made it to market announcements.

It can be shown that the only activity that has to happen to make ZEBRA batteries far less costly is to mass produce them. Material costs are not an issue. They are perfectly suited for those who wish to drive a hundred miles on electricity every day. With very good regeneration, 100 kg of ZEBRA cells should get you 100 miles.

China might discover the value of electric vehicles with ZEBRA batteries and use their skills at production to get them into mass production.

Range extender fuel cells or combustion engines can make plug in hybrid cars very cheap and practical. ..HG..

Henry Gibson = Stan Peterson = Exxon mobil agent

The blabla of your post non sense of the last sentence of it tells us that you should consult : a psychiatrist

Henry G,
There is a big difference between a little radioactivity (like in your body) and the nuclear waste from a reactor, or, the small amount of CO2 from one green plant and the amount of CO2 coming from a coal fired plant.
You are saying there is no difference. Sorry, not buying it.
But i agree with your last sentence. Not sure what TH sees as crazy.

"Just see how slow Firefly products have been brought to the general market once Firefly became a government research lab. The owners are getting enough payback without selling product into the general market. Perhaps their product does not really even work. No foam positive plates have been announced. No new products with their corrosion resistant positive grid have made it to market announcements"

Good point. Like EEStor, they've missed every release date. Even just eliminating corrosion in lead-acid batteries would be enabling, like pouring electrons in and out of a bucket.

"Just see how slow Firefly products have been brought to the general market once Firefly became a government research lab. The owners are getting enough payback without selling product into the general market. Perhaps their product does not really even work. No foam positive plates have been announced. No new products with their corrosion resistant positive grid have made it to market announcements."

Seems true.

These announcements are bitter sweet.

Bitter in that 5 years ago batteries (for a practical BEV) were "5 years away" (we don't need to count those who thought the EV1 was already practical TEN years ago).

Sweet when they offer hope for "energy storage that is five to 10 times greater than that of Li-ion".

We can only hope that there are still some breakthroughs or synergistic discoveries that maake practical BEVS a reality in LESS than 5 MORE years.

TreeHugger,

I don't own any petroleum stocks and have never made a single buck from that industry, unlike your phony tin god, Al Gore, whose fortune is founded on it.

I won't waste my time any further than to say I helped found the 'Union of Concerned Scientists' and then like Patrick Moore at his Greenpeace, quit when the leftists and lawyers took it over, for use as their pet gravy train.

No one wants to hear hear that the prospects for a better battery that makes BEVs really practical, is still a decade or two from commercialization. But such is the case, and we must address the prospect.

It appears that we will live with what we have, pending a breakthrough. It would be nice if Cold Fusion, Supercapcitors or Li-Air batteries were available today, but they are not.

However, the technology of Li-Ion is a good enough advance to make some aspects of the Electrification of Ground Transport feasible, whereas Pb-acid and NI-Mh was simply not up to the job. It essentially rules in HEVs, and PHEVS and EREVs, but rules out BEVs. Except for limited uses for BEVs such as 'neighborhood' or 'city-micro-cars'.

New technology simplt takes time to develop and then commercialize.

I'm impressed that Stan was involved with the Union of Concerned Scientists. I guess it's his aversion to AGW and Al Gore that make him appear as an "Exxon Mobil agent". (Al Gore can really rub people the wrong way)
Can't argue with stan's summary of the current state of electrifying transport.

danm

When Stan Peterson is not bashing denying insulting or bullshiting he can say things that make sense, like his last post on which I agree for most of it.

Asides the "union of concerned scientist", well you science is so specialized these days that even if you are an expert in one area of sciences you opinion on another area of science is useless or worthless. When it comes to climate change there scientist paid to do that job and we have to admit that they know more than we do about it. After all we have never accused the scientists who do research on the cancer to manipulate the facts because they make a living out their research. So why should we put in question the integrity of IPCC because they are paid to work on AWG ?

Simply a disaffected know it all that ha no humility or reason.
Not even funny.
But a good example of the morons you can meet at most public drinking houses.

"NI-Mh was simply not up to the job."

NiMH is up to the job in most hybrids. NiMH gave the EV1 100 mile range. NiMH worked well in the EPIC minivans at LAX with quick charging. I would say NiMH was and IS "up to the job".

I'm kind of surprised I haven't seen more announcements/research regarding NiMh. At the very least they could try to nano structure the cathode/anode to reduce current per unit area and thus increase the power density and life span.

I'm sure you'll see lots of announcements/research regarding NiMh after 2014.

New Jersey is second only to California in adoption of solar infrastructure. Despite the announcement recently that Germany will be lowering their feed-in tariffs in January of 2012, they remain 40% of the total solar market globally while receiving less average daily solar radiation than New Jersey njtaxpreparation.net

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