Lithium-air batteries will bring about change over a lifetime. Imagine an electric car and a smart phone that require charging only once a week. Improving energy efficiency will have a positive effect on the environment. “It might be difficult to commercialize at the moment but research on ‘LithiumOxygen Batteries based on Lithium Superoxide’could serve as a stepping stone for other researchers,” said Sun Yang-kook, a Professor in the Department of Energy Engineering at Hanyang University(HYU).
The Lithium-ion battery is a rechargeable battery in which the lithium ions move from the negative to the positive electrode when charging. It is commonly used in our daily lives; in smart phones, cameras, and even in electronic cars. The Lithium-air battery is a next generation battery that has five to ten times more energy density than a Lithium-ion battery. It is also made up of graphite which is much cheaper than the manganese or cobalt used for Lithium-ion batteries. Unfortunately, the downside is that it is unable to be recharged more than 10 times.
However, Sun’s new Lithium-Oxygen battery’s negative and positive poles are made up of catalytic iridium nanoparticles on graphene, which can resolve the problem of low energy efficiency. Having theoretical specific surface area, graphene can maximize the lithium-Oxygen Battery capacity. Additionally, minimizing electrical resistance can increase the energy efficiency.
Regarding his research, Sun said, “In the past, the primary cell category was so regulated that only small businesses with low technical skills were allowed in the market. But in 1991, SONY developed a rechargeable battery and that made the government cut the regulatory red tape. From that point on, major companies began their research on batteries. Being a part of a research team got me interested in this field because I could tell it would be a promising area in the future.”
Society’s concern for the environment also played an important role in the development. “As environmental issues worsen, the matter at hand is how to efficiently use energy without harming our surroundings. For instance, we know that exhaust emissions from cars contribute to air pollution. But, ironically, cars are a necessity these days. Then the only solution is to develop CO2-free technology. The earth doesn’t only belong to our generation. It should be preserved for generations to come,” Sun said.