Researchers have developed the first fully-rechargeable carbon-neutral battery that also uses carbon dioxide in its chemistry, paving the way for more energy-dense power-storage systems that are more eco-friendly.

A team at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) demonstrated a lithium-carbon dioxide battery prototype that can run up to 500 consecutive cycles of charge/recharge processes, they reported.

carbon-neutral batteries, Carbon-Dioxide Battery, rechargeable, University of Illinois at Chicago
Amin Salehi-Khojin, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), led a team that developed the first fully rechargeable lithium-carbon dioxide battery that also is carbon neutral. (Source: UIC)

The team, led by Amin Salehi-Khojin, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC’s College of Engineering, worked with researchers at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, who performed theoretical qualifications to aid in their design.

Researchers long have known that lithium-carbon dioxide batteries are a good option for energy-storage systems because they have an energy density more than seven times higher than the lithium-ion batteries we commonly use today.

However, until now, it’s been difficult to get carbon to work effectively with a catalyst to maintain battery stability, Salehi-Khojin said.

“Lithium-carbon dioxide batteries have been attractive for a long time, but in practice, we have been unable to get one that is truly efficient until now,” he said in a press statement.

Solving the Catalyst Issue

In lithium-carbon dioxide battery chemistries, the discharge produces lithium carbonate and carbon. While the lithium carbonate recycles during the charge phase, the carbon instead accumulates on the catalyst, which ultimately leads to the battery’s failure, researchers said.

This accumulation of carbon creates two problems for the battery, said Alireza Ahmadiparidari, a UIC College of Engineering graduate student who also worked on the research. It blocks the catalyst’s active sites and prevents carbon dioxide diffusion, as well as triggers electrolyte decomposition in a charged state, he said in a press statement.

To solve these challenges, researchers used new materials to create a battery chemistry that can recycle both lithium carbonate and carbon, they said.

Specifically, researchers used molybdenum disulfide as a cathode catalyst combined with a hybrid electrolyte to help incorporate carbon in the cycling process. This combination of materials produced a single multi-component composite of products rather than separate ones. This, in tur,n creates a more efficient environment for material recycling, researchers said.

The result of this effort is the “first carbon-neutral lithium carbon dioxide battery with much more efficiency and long-lasting cycle life,” Salehi-Khojin said in a press statement. This opens the door to using this type of battery in advanced energy storage systems, he said.

Researchers published their findings in the journal Advanced Materials.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

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