Folks in the laboratory are struggling to create a new lithium air battery. With petroleum becoming a questionable source of power, new avenues are being explored. But the road isn?t a smooth one.

"It is going to take time and collaborations across several scientific disciplines to address the four main challenges of this battery development effort: safety, cost, life and performance" says Jeff Chamberlain of the U. S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory?s Office of Technology Transfer. He claims that development of the lithium air battery will require innovations in materials science, chemistry and engineering,

Towards that end, DOE awarded the lab $8.8 million to build three battery research facilities where battery prototyping will take place. Computer modeling is being used to increase the energy density of Li-air. One facility involved in the new technology is the Kentucky-Argonne National Battery Manufacturing Center. Its goal is the development of a viable battery manufacturing industry in the US.

Director of Argonne National Laboratory Office of Technology Transfer
Eric Isaacs, Director of DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory Office of Technology Transfer

The buzz is on. The director of the Argonne National Lab, Eric Isaacs spoke before the National Press Club about the challenges inherent in developing the new type of battery. The Japanese auto industry is setting up centers to address this system. The Japanese government program for energy storage is funding groups to look at the challenges of lithium air.

Argonne, a leading edge national US laboratory, conducts basic and applied scientific research in all scientific disciplines. The lab has a history of research in the battery technology field and is a leader in developing new materials for advanced products including the now common Lithium ion batteries.

The newest Li-air battery uses a catalytic air cathode that supplies oxygen, an electrolyte and a lithium anode. It potentially could equal the energy storage of gasoline tank. Their energy storage may reach five to tens times that of the Li-ion battery.