Lithium-air batteries are a strong candidate for electric car energy storage, but they face a major hurdle: internal clogging due to solid byproducts. It’s an issue that has prevented li-air batteries, which offer 10 times the storage capacity of lithium ion batteries, from hitting the bigtime. But researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have a solution.
The researchers have devised a way to seperate electrolytes inside a li-air cell with a solid conductor glass film, thus preventing clogging with solid byproducts. Instead, the cell produces a lithium hydroxide byproduct that dissolves in the cell’s water-based solution. The solution acts as the battery’s cathode, while lithium salt acts as the anode. So the battery can theoretically be recharged by removing the contaminated solution and replacing it with new solution along with lithium salt cartridges–effectively making it more like a fuel cell than a traditional battery, since fuel cell innards are often removed for recharging.
AIST researchers say that they still have plenty of work to do before their li-air batteries can go into commercial production, but once they do, recharging an EV could be as easy as switching out a battery’s water solution and lithium salt cartridges in a filling station–no recharging required.