Air fuelled battery to provide ‘step change’ in capacity

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A new type of air fuelled battery could give up to ten times the energy storage of designs currently available, say researchers at the University of St Andrews and partners at Strathclyde and Newcastle.

The new design, claimed to offer a 'step change' in capacity, is said to have the potential to improve the performance of portable electronic products and to give a boost to the renewable energy industry. According to the research team, the batteries will enable a constant electrical output from sources such as wind or solar, which stop generating when the weather changes or night falls. The improvement in capacity is provided by an additional component that uses oxygen drawn from the air during discharge. This replaces a chemical constituent used in rechargeable batteries today. More energy is claimed for the same sizes battery, while those with a similar capacity can be made smaller. The STAIR (St Andrews Air) cell should be cheaper than today's rechargeables too. The new component is made of porous carbon, less expensive than the lithium cobalt oxide it replaces. Principal investigator Professor Peter Bruce of the Chemistry Department at the University of St Andrews, said: "Our target is to get a five to ten fold increase in storage capacity, which is beyond the horizon of current lithium batteries. Our results, so far, are very encouraging and have far exceeded our expectations." While focused on understanding more about how the chemical reaction of the battery works and how to improve it, the research team is also working towards making a STAIR cell prototype suited to small applications, such as mobile phones or MP3 players.