Thursday, 2 February 2012

Is IBM’s Lithium-Air battery technology

Electric cars begin and end with this one word, range. The range of an electric car refers to how far an electric car can go before its battery stack requires recharging. So far, a range of 160 kilometers is what all electric cars have achieved reliably(read without adding excessive weight or bulk to the car). Needless to say, electric cars have remained in the fringes of the car market, both from the manufacturer’s as well as the consumer’s perspectives as this limited range makes electric cars more of city runabouts than of an automobile with a genuine long distance capability. All that could change in 2013.

2013 is when IBM’s team of researchers working on a new battery technology called the air battery technology would unveil their first working prototype. While the commercial launch is expected no earlier than 2012, the air battery technology is quite a promising one as it promises almost 800 kilometers of range before a recharge would be required, even as its size and weight is comparable to that of the lithium ion battery stack in a conventional electric car. The big idea behind this seemingly game changing breakthrough in electric car technology is that of higher energy density.

IBM’s physicists working on this project point to the lithium-air batteries achieving theoretical energy densities of more than 1000 times than that of conventional lithium ion batteries. The main reason behind this massive energy density, is that the lithium-air batteries using a carbon in the positive electrode instead of the conventional metal oxides. Carbon electrodes are lighter and react with oxygen in the air around it to produce electricity. However, the physicists are yet to achieve chemical stability, which is essential for large charging-discharging cycles, which is something that an electric car’s batteries would be subject to.

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