First Rechargeable Carbon-Neutral, Carbon-Dioxide Battery

Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay

Li-ion batteries are seemingly everywhere, powering everything from our smartphones to electric cars. While we can undoubtedly thank this technology for lowering the emissions in the automotive industry, Li-ion batteries are still not as eco-friendly as one might think. More precisely, the manufacturing of Li-ion batteries produces a lot of CO2 emissions.

But what if we could capture the same CO2 and use it to make Lithium-carbon-dioxide batteries?

These carbon-dioxide based batteries are nothing new, at least when it comes to proof of concept. However, this is the first time that scientists made the battery to work in the real world. Thanks to researchers at the University of Illinois, we now know that lithium-carbon-dioxide batteries can charge and store electricity.

The researchers made a successful 500 charge and discharge cycles with the concept battery. That’s not much – Li-ion batteries can go over 1,000 cycles, but still fantastic for new technology.

The reason why it wasn’t possible to build lithium-carbon-dioxide batteries until now was the carbon itself. With every discharge, these batteries produce lithium carbonate which can be recycled with the next charge and carbon which can’t. The carbon buildup inside the cell would quickly make it unusable, even after few charges.

“The accumulation of carbon not only blocks the active sites of the catalyst and prevents carbon dioxide diffusion, but also triggers electrolyte decomposition in a charged state,” said Alireza Ahmadiparidari, a graduate student at the UIC College of Engineering.

Luckily, the team at the University of Illinois found a way to mitigate this problem. They used molybdenum disulfide as a cathode catalyst in the chemical process to minimize carbon buildup, and a hybrid electrolyte to help recycle the carbon.

“Our unique combination of materials helps make the first carbon-neutral lithium carbon dioxide battery with much more efficiency and long-lasting cycle life, which will enable it to be used in advanced energy storage systems,” said Amin Salehi-Khojin, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University.

Right now this scientific research is only a proof of concept. As always, further research is needed to make the lithium-carbon-dioxide batteries similar to their Li-ion counterparts in terms of charging capacity and lifetime.

Bianca Van der Watt

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