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USA: IBM is developing 500 mile range lithium-air car battery

The electric vehicle has to overcome three major hurdles if it is ever going to be a success with consumers. They need to charge fast, be cheap to buy, and have a decent range between charges.

At the moment, the range of electric vehicles is around about 100 miles on average, which may be adequate for most journeys, but certainly isn’t good enough. The issue is the battery technology in use today that relies on lithium-ion, and whose make-up is rather heavy and energy density not really high enough for use in a vehicle.

IBM has been developing an alternative though, using a type of battery previously thought unsuitable for long-term use in electric vehicles.

It’s called a lithium-air (Li-air) battery and uses carbon instead of metal oxides so it is therefore a lot lighter than an equivalent lithium-ion battery. As it uses oxygen there is no need to store a fuel, so Li-air also has a very high energy density, around 1000x that of lithium-ion batteries.

The one issue with Li-air is the fact the oxygen reacts with the conducting solution as well as the cathode. This drastically shortens the life of the battery and makes it unsuitable for use in cars. But IBM has a solution.

Physicists Winfried Wickle and Alessandro Curioni modeled the reactions inside a Li-air battery using an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer. They then tried different conducting solution materials to see if any could work without reacting with oxygen. They found one, but are not prepared to tell anyone what it is yet.
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