Battery research charging ahead – at last

1 min read

Getting on for 18 months ago, I wrote a blog that noted there was still a lot of work to be done in developing battery chemistries. The thrust was that we need new battery technologies in order to provide more power from smaller volumes and that the slow progress in developing these new battery technologies had been offset by more capable electronic devices that draw less power.

While I can’t claim any credit, there appears to have seen significant steps forward on a number of fronts during these last 18 months. We’ve seen, amongst other things, the emergence of sodium-ion technology, something called ‘sol-gel’, a ‘designer carbon’ approach and even ‘bendy’ batteries, but lithium based chemistries appear to remain the researcher's favourite.

And a development by researchers at the University of Cambridge holds the promise of moving battery technology on significantly. They’re calling their lithium-oxygen approach the ‘ultimate’ battery because it has a theoretical energy density 10 times that of Li-ion. According to the team, that's equivalent to gasoline – petrol to you and me. Needless to say, the development features graphene.

The obvious target here is electric vehicles and the researchers think that if a Li-oxygen battery can be made, it could enable a car to drive as far on a single charge as it could on a tankful of petrol, solving the so called ‘battery anxiety’ issue.

The researchers would, ideally, like to create a lithium-air battery, but other consituents of air would harm the metal electrode. So they say it’s probably another 10 years before a practical device might be available.

But it’s good to see that significant efforts are now being made to help battery technology catch up with the developments made in the electronics world.