Behold, the eco-friendly lithium-carbon dioxide battery

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago demonstrates the world’s very first fully rechargeable lithium-carbon dioxide battery. If introduced properly in the tech industry, it will be the first battery type that is naturally carbon-neutral.

Lithium carbon-dioxide batteries have a specific energy density that is seven times better than industry-standard lithium-ion batteries. However, traditionally, such batteries cannot provide reversible charge cycles, due to the permanent carbon buildup on the catalyst as it is being used. Thus, creating a fully rechargeable lithium-carbon dioxide battery has been, for the longest time, considered a very difficult technological challenge.

The research paper, titled “A Long‐Cycle‐Life Lithium–CO2 Battery with Carbon Neutrality”, was published in Advanced Materials last week, and provided details of a new configuration that would finally make lithium-carbon dioxide batteries finally rechargeable.

Specifically, in order to facilitate the complete reversible charge cycle between lithium and carbon dioxide, they developed a cathode catalyst made of molybdenum disulfide, and then it was combined with a hybrid electrolyte (of undisclosed chemical composition) that would directly promote the carbon cycling process.

The result was a prototype lithium-carbon dioxide battery that is fully rechargeable and has a charge cycle limit of 500. To compare, standard lithium-ion batteries used in most mobile devices today have charge cycles that are pretty much the same. This means that not only has full rechargeability been efficiently achieved, but it is also almost ready for consumer-level production.

Battery aging and disposal are among some of the biggest environmental problems that we have when it comes to managing sources of portable energy. Oftentimes, used batteries become hazards simply due to the chemicals that can potentially leak out. Even worse, the production of these batteries requires lots of energy from traditional power plants, contributing to the world’s overall artificial carbon pollution emission rates.

Being that one of this new battery’s main component is carbon dioxide, it can potentially solve both the problem of carbon emissions and material disposal. Of course, the extraction and manufacturing of lithium itself is another issue. But a lithium-carbon dioxide battery is more carbon-neutral by default, and is thus certainly more eco-friendly, at least compared to most metal-acid batteries commonly in use today.

If this new lithium-carbon dioxide battery proves to be economically viable enough for mass production, then a bigger push to make even more mobile device technologies eco-friendly might just be possible within the next few years.

Featured Image credit: This_is_M via Flickr

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