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KAIST researchers have paved the way for fast-charging lithium-oxygen batteries.
Professor Hye Ryung Byon from the Department of Chemistry and Professor Yousung Jung from the Graduate School of EEWS led a joint research team to develop lithium-oxygen batteries exhibiting 80% round-trip efficiency even at high charging rates, solving the problem of existing lithium-oxygen batteries which generally showed drastically lower efficiencies when the charge current rate was increased.
This study exploits the size and shape lithium peroxide, a discharge product, which is known to cause the very problems mentioned above. In doing so, the researchers have lowered the overpotential, which is the difference between the thermodynamic reversible potential and the measured potential, and simultaneously improved battery efficiency. Of particular interest is the fact that these high-performance lithium-oxygen batteries can be realized without costly catalysts.
One remarkable property of lithium-oxygen batteries is that they can accommodate three to five times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries commonly used today. Therefore, lithium-oxygen batteries would render longer driving distance to electric vehicles or drones, which operate on the continued use of electrical power.
However, their weakness lies in that, during charge, the lithium peroxide remains undecomposed at low overpotential, resulting in eventually compromising the battery’s overall performance. This is due to the poor ionic and electrical conductivity of lithium peroxide.
To tackle this issue, the researchers could form one-dimensional amorphous lithium peroxide nanostructures through the use of a mesoporous carbon electrode, CMK-3. When compared against non-mesoporous electrodes, CMK-3 showed exceptionally lower overpotential, thereby enhancing the round-trip efficiency of lithium-oxygen batteries.
The amorphous lithium peroxide produced along the electrode has a small volume and a large surface area contacting electrolyte solution, which is presumably endowed with high conductivity to speed up the charging of the lithium-oxygen batteries.
This research underpins the feasibility of overcoming the fundamental limitations of lithium-oxygen batteries even without the addition of expensive catalytic materials, but rather by the re-configuration of the size and shape of the lithium peroxide.
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