We’ve been fortunate enough to look at some of the new power storage technologies that are either on the market, or deep into development. We’ve seen amazing things with projected releases that are just a few years away. We checked out solid state lithium batteries that could run an electric car for 965 km (600 miles). We have enjoyed new pallet-sized blocks that could help solve the reliance on fossil fuels by storing the enormous amounts of energy that come from natural resources. We even looked at what is coming out for the everyman that just needs a damn fine laptop battery.
Now that we’ve enjoyed what is possible in the real world, we felt it was time to get into the fuzzy realm where scientists dare to dream: The land of “what if.”
Many in the electrical / chemical community are divided on lithium air rechargeable batteries. Some believe that if the lithium air battery could be perfected, it could only be outdone by such fantasies as cold fusion. Others claim it is dangerous, destructive madness that is akin to using alchemy to transmute lead into gold, only the lithium air technology will explode and kill people much more often.
The key to lithium air batteries is that they use a protective shell composed of carbon rather than metal oxides, which is what is used for our good friend the Lithium Ion battery. The way it works is that the carbon casing reacts with the air around it to produce electrical current. Typical Lithium Ion batteries use carbon as the primary means of storing lithium ions to produce a charge. In the Lithium air batteries, the carbon would not just be a bonding agent, or a medium for holding excited lithium ions, but rather an integral part of the entire process.
With this new use of the carbon / lithium interaction, it is possible for one of these batteries to power an electric car for 1,607km (1,000 miles) before it needs to be recharged.
Here is where it gets nasty, and why lithium air batteries have been in development for nearly two decades without a successful release. Lithium loves air. It loves air with a fiery passion that makes it ignite whenever the two come in contact. A charged lithium air battery that encounters any atmospheric air – especially if that air is moist – tends to become a very small grenade that will ruin almost any device it is put into.
Some claims have been made by companies, as well as research and development firms that they have found an electrolyte solution that will allow these batteries to be perfectly safe and usable by the general public. Some have even gone so far as to declare that a publicly available prototype will hit the market by 2013. Such promises are common though, so please be safe and do not hold your breath.
It has generally been accepted that Lithium is the path of the true battery manufacturer or researcher. Some have gone beyond this, though, claiming that more power can be had for less money from Magnesium Ion batteries. Right now there are several groups racing to be the first to use this technology. Toyota is competing with an MIT group called Pellion Technologies which is receiving funding from The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E).
The magnesium ion power capacity is estimated to allow for nearly double the power found in a lithium ion battery, but you can expect the price to reflect that. The projected release of these batteries is nearly a decade off, so it would be unwise to junk your lithium standbys.
Like most inventions and innovations, these ideas may never see the light of day. The scientist that perfects them could well be stepping over the charred remains of his fellows. It’s always a nice mental vacation to dream of cars that can drive for hundreds of kilometers without stopping for petrol or polluting the world, but for now we must be content to let the rational dreamers entice us with promises.
Thanks for reading our article! Be sure to check out Electronics Warehouse for all of your rechargeable battery needs. As an added bonus, use promo code EWBLOG at checkout for an extra 10% off your order, just for reading this article!