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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Is This The Future Of Energy Storage?

  • Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology say that they have developed a new strategy to address the limitations of the lithium-oxygen battery. 
  • Lithium-oxygen batteries are capable of generating up to ten times higher energy density. 
  • The University of Kansas is also researching lithium-oxygen batteries and how to overcome the challenges of commercialization.

Scientists have been trying for years to make lithium-oxygen batteries a viable energy storage solution by overcoming some of the challenges to the commercial use of this type of batteries. So far, the challenges have been greater than the sum of the potential solutions.   In what could be a breakthrough in this type of battery technology, researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) say that they have developed a new strategy to address the limitations of the lithium-oxygen battery by stabilizing the electrocatalysts at the atomic level within metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).

According to the team of scientists led by Professor Jeung Ku Kang, "This new strategy ensures high performance for lithium-oxygen batteries, acclaimed as a next-generation energy storage technology."

Typically, lithium-oxygen batteries are known for their much higher energy density than the much more popular lithium-ion batteries, which are widely used in electronics, electric vehicles, and energy storage.

Lithium-oxygen batteries are capable of generating up to ten times higher energy density - that is how much energy a system contains compared to its mass - than Li-ion batteries. However, the battery chemistry in a lithium-oxygen battery corrodes the battery's components, degrading the battery and limiting its ability to recharge and be of commercial use with such poor cycle life.

Researchers at KAIST have found that chemical reactions can be stabilized in the sub-nanometric pores of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), and their new strategy showed ten-fold improvements in the life cycle of the lithium-oxygen batteries.

Related: Underinvestment Could Send Oil Prices Soaring "Simultaneously generating and stabilizing atomic-level electrocatalysts within MOFs can diversify materials according to numerous combinations of metal and organic linkers. It can expand not only the development of electrocatalysts, but also various research fields such as photocatalysts, medicine, the environment, and petrochemicals," Professor Kang said in a statement.

The study of KAIST's researchers is the latest in which scientists are trying to find ways to make the high-energy-density and light-weight lithium-oxygen batteries a feasible solution for energy storage by addressing the current problems of this type of battery.

Two years ago, chemists from the University of Waterloo said they had solved the issue of the cell chemistry in which the superoxide and lithium peroxide react with the carbon cathode and degrade the battery cell. The researchers replaced the organic electrolyte with a more stable inorganic molten salt, and the porous carbon cathode with a bifunctional metal oxide catalyst.

"By swapping out the electrolyte and the electrode host and raising the temperature, we show the system performs remarkably well," said Linda Nazar, Canada Research Chair in Solid State Energy Materials and senior author on the project.

"This discovery highlights immense opportunities .... to enable new battery technologies that can potentially rival lithium-ion batteries and other storage technologies," MIT researchers wrote in a commentary to the work of the University of Waterloo scientists.

Related: China Sees Tanker Traffic Soar As Oil Storage Runs Out

However, commercial production of lithium-oxygen batteries could be more than a decade away, Nazar told MIT Technology Review in 2018.

The University of Kansas is also researching lithium-oxygen batteries and how to overcome the challenges of commercialization.

"If you use lithium-oxygen batteries for an electric car, you could drive 500 miles, but you can't accelerate very fast. Driving just a few miles per hour isn't very fun," Xianglin Li, assistant professor of mechanical engineering who received in 2019 a grant to study lithium-oxygen batteries at the University of Kansas, said last year.

"As far as I know, almost all lithium-oxygen batteries are still in the research phase and the technology doesn't have a very large market yet. Performance, stability and lifetime are all issues for lithium-oxygen batteries now. But in the '70s and '80s, lithium-ion batteries had similar issues," Li said.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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