Battery Charges: Considering Li-Air Technology

Battery Life MVIToday started fairly typically. I dragged myself out of bed, drove to work, and opened my laptop. The laptop, mind you, had been charging all night, but for reasons I don’t care to investigate, the ten minute drive had reduced the battery to 96%. Figures. I then put the battery in Power Saver mode, which was evidently a bad move since the laptop went from four hours and twenty-nine minutes of power remaining to two hours and fifty-eight minutes. Fortunately, rumor has it there’s a much better battery in development.

Presently, most batteries utilize lithium ions. To grossly oversimplify, the lithium ion battery works by sending lithium ions from an anode (negative electrode) to a cathode (positive electrode) via an organic liquid (electrolyte) while charging, and the process reverses during discharge. Everything is contained within the battery. Lithium ion batteries use carbon as the cathode, but using oxygen is theoretically “cleaner” and more energy efficient. Since oxygen isn’t stored within the battery, the cell is also lighter than its Li-ion counterpart. For the lithium-air battery to work, a lithium compound, lithium cobalt oxide, acts as the anode and oxygen reacts with the lithium ions to form LiO2 and generate a charge. Water and iodine must be included in the battery to form and remove LiOH crystals from the LiO2 so product buildup doesn’t block ion movement. Some scientists, however, believe this adaptation constitutes a lithium-iodine battery that is essentially different from the lithium-air concept.

Despite some design hurdles, the lithium-air battery has interesting potential. According to Cambridge scientists, the theoretical energy density of the lithium-air battery has ten times the theoretical energy density of the lithium ion battery. With less weight and longer periods between recharges, the batteries sound pretty snazzy. Cambridge notes that thus far testing is restricted to lithium and oxygen gas because lithium also reacts with nitrogen, carbon, and other molecules in the air. For the battery to be truly lithium-air, it requires a gas filtration system. We’ll have to wait and see whether it’s more viable to build a closed system Li-O2 battery or to build an open system with a filter.

Meanwhile, spending three hours on my laptop has only cost me fifty-eight minutes of battery life. I think this machine is deliberately messing with my head.

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