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Cambridge Researchers Present Lithium-Air Battery Breakthrough (google.com) 100

Reuters reports on a tantalizing advance in battery technology described this week by Cambridge researchers, who have made large enough steps toward a practical lithium-oxygen battery to give a laboratory demo of their system. Commercially available lithium-oxygen batteries would be significant because they would have the potential to deliver the desired power thanks to a high energy density - a measure of energy stored for a given weight - that could be 10 times that of lithium-ion batteries and approach that of gasoline. They also could be a fifth the cost and a fifth the weight of lithium-ion batteries. But problems have beset lithium-oxygen batteries that affect their capacity and lifetime, including troublesome efficiency, performance, chemical reaction and potential safety issues and the limitation of needing pure oxygen rather than plain old air. The Cambridge demonstrator battery employs different chemistry than previous work on lithium-air batteries, for example using lithium hydroxide rather than lithium peroxide. It also uses an electrode made of graphene, a form of carbon. The result was a more stable and efficient battery." Some more about this research can be gleaned from Clare Grey's web page at Cambridge.
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Cambridge Researchers Present Lithium-Air Battery Breakthrough

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  • I wish (Score:5, Funny)

    by frenchgates ( 531731 ) on Saturday October 31, 2015 @03:41PM (#50838661)
    I wish I had an actual breakthrough battery for every battery breakthrough story I've seen on Slashdot for the last ten years...
    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      I wish we had a battery breakthrough for every HUNDRED articles we get on it.

      What gets me is that Li-ion, NiMH, NiCd, etc. I heard precisely NOTHING off before I'd bought a product that contained them or they were on the shelves of my local electrical store.

      • by ledow ( 319597 )

        And, come to think of it, the first time I heard of LiPo cells was someone showing me their drone aircraft.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        No duh? They were all invented and commercialized way before the Internet.

        Nickel cadmium batteries were invented in the 19th century and commercialized in 1932. NiMH in 1967, Lithium-ion in the 70s, both commercialized in the early 1990s.

        • by ledow ( 319597 )

          Great.

          So in 20-50 years, we might see one of these many bollocks-battery-techs actually become a product you can buy.

          Exactly my point.

          • Or, in the case of battery technologies reported in the technical press (I remember reading the paper in Nature) nearly 20 years ago, then commercial realisation may be just around the corner. Or 30 years away.

            It's a salutary lesson for the internet generation, that screaming "Now! Now! Now! Want toy NOW!" does not actually get things invented any faster.

      • I wish we had a battery breakthrough for every HUNDRED articles we get on it.

        What gets me is that Li-ion, NiMH, NiCd, etc. I heard precisely NOTHING off before I'd bought a product that contained them or they were on the shelves of my local electrical store.

        So tell me, you pissed off at every science and technology report out there?

        I mean seriously = what the hell pisses you off so much about news of a possibility? FTA - Scientists have created a battery whose technology in principle could power electric cars and other energy-hungry devices far better than current lithium-ion batteries, but it remains years away from commercial use.

        What a bunch of jerks, eh?

        Or do you just want us to protect your precious temper from all news, and wake you up when it's

        • by ledow ( 319597 )

          Because NEWS is the problem. As pointed out, there are HUNDREDS of Slashdot "news" stories about new battery technologies.

          But all the ones that make it are the ones we DON'T hear about in the news section, aren't sending out press releases, etc. They are writing papers, then building the devices, then commercialising them.

          Seriously, go search for "battery" on Slashdot. Everything from graphene to oxygen/air to new structures to quantum effects to whatever other bollocks you can imagine.

          How many of them m

          • Because NEWS is the problem.

            No - your crankiness is a problem. It seems you think there is some sort of damage being done by reportage of new technology, unless it's already commercialized. It doesn't hurt anything. These batteries, as I see it, are using lithium hydroxide insted of lithium peroxide. Sounds interesting.

            They even note that there are problems with charging/recharging the things as they exist today/

            Regardless, I've visited the sites, and done some reearch online. Seems interesting. Been learning some stuff. I know m

            • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

              There is an alternative outlet for that battery crankiness. Target that crankiness at government. Why is the government not doing more to drive battery research, solar panel research and wind turbine research. Why is it not a global effort, why are we waiting for individual groups to make tiny step, after tiny step, why are we waiting thumb in bum mind in neutral for low lying coastal cities to flood out. We can actually stop pollution our metropolitan environment against our own health by moving away from

              • There is an alternative outlet for that battery crankiness. Target that crankiness at government. Why is the government not doing more to drive battery research, solar panel research and wind turbine research.

                The political environment - at least in America, simply isn't conducive to that.

                When Solyndra went belly up, the far right went nuts about it.

                Mind you, this isn't specifically about Republican versus Democrat, just that one of those groups really really really hates subsidies - except for their own. Here is an example so perfect, it's hard to imagine:

                http://www.politico.com/story/... [politico.com]

                http://www.washingtonexaminer.... [washingtonexaminer.com] TL;DR version. While ubsidies to sugar producers continued, and the crop insuranc

              • Why? Because the govt, having little incentive beyond strictly "get me elected again" or "let me keep my govt paycheck"*, has historically had a very poor track record at picking winners. Private enterprise, having more of a "I'd better be right, or I'm going to lose $$--or go out of business" attitude, tends to have a better record. And those that don't, tend to not stick around...(Kodak, anyone?).....*disclaimer--I've been on the "let's pick the company side for the govt in the past
                • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

                  Business vs government, let's see, how many times in human history have governments gone bankrupt this versus how many times in the last week have businesses gone bankrupt. Business track record absolute shite.

                  • If you re-read my post, you will see you have just made my point exactly. Governments don't (typically) have the "fear of bankruptcy", so you end up picking stupid "winners" like Solyndra (sp). Companies that pick wrong, fail--so they put more thought into their picks.
    • Re:I wish (Score:4, Insightful)

      by west ( 39918 ) on Saturday October 31, 2015 @03:43PM (#50838671)

      I'd be happy with one breakthrough battery for all the battery breakthrough stories I've seen on Slashdot for the last ten years...

      • Re:I wish (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday October 31, 2015 @03:51PM (#50838695)

        I'd be happy with one breakthrough battery for all the battery breakthrough stories I've seen on Slashdot for the last ten years...

        Lithium batteries have more than doubled in energy density over that period, while dropping in price. That improvement resulted from the research, summarized and discussed on Slashdot, that you are now dismissing.

        If you don't want to read about leading edge scientific research, then please go chat on Facebook or some other mainstream forum, and leave Slashdot to the true geeks.

        • Oh, yeah, I remember all of those amazing "Lithium batteries get 3% cheaper and 5% more energy dense" stories in Slashdot over the years. I apologize.
        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday October 31, 2015 @04:57PM (#50838915)

          In particular there have been some improvements along those lines recently. Likewise just last year new batteries with silicon electrodes increased energy density over anything seen before, and smartphone manufacturers are already using them for their newest toys.

          There has been no revolution in batteries, no completely new chemistry that changes everything, but there has been steady development.

        • Lithium batteries have more than doubled in energy density over that period, while dropping in price.

          If all the advances which were announced had played out as announced though they would probably have increased by a hundredfold or more. It's interesting to hear about the advances I just wish that they were not over hyped to the point where they make grossly inaccurate claims about their impact. Perhaps this will improve battery energy densities by a factor of 10 as claimed but, lacking expert understanding of batteries on which to base my own opinion, I tend to put more weight on the previous record of s

          • Re:Over hyped (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday October 31, 2015 @05:13PM (#50838989)

            If all the advances which were announced had played out as announced though they would probably have increased by a hundredfold or more.

            Most research doesn't pan out. Not in batteries, or in any other area of scientific endeavour. That doesn't mean we should stop doing science. It also doesn't mean that we should stop reporting on science. If you don't want to read about science and technology, then GO SOMEWHERE ELSE. Go watch cat videos, or whatever. Good riddance. I am sick of all the SJW articles and other crap on Slashdot, so it is very annoying to read people like you whining about articles reporting real science and potential technological improvements. Articles on things like battery research are exactly what Slashdot is for.

            • Most research doesn't pan out. Not in batteries, or in any other area of scientific endeavour.

              I don't know where you got that from but it simply isn't true. In my own field of particle physics it is extremely rare that an experiment does not work. It's true that some experiments work better than others and an experiment might not find new and exciting physics but in that case you learn that your existing laws of physics work under conditions where nobody had ever tested them before.

              Mind you we also don't go around telling people that our next experiment will find an easy way to convert matter to

        • The difference is that articles like this claim dramatic increases, in this case 10 fold, that never seem to appear. Doubling over ten years is not a breakthrough. It is incremental refinements. The cost decrease is mainly due to economy of scale and refinements in manufacturing.

          • The difference is that articles like this claim dramatic increases, in this case 10 fold

            Except they don't claim that. The very first sentence in TFA makes it clear that this is years away from commercial application. The "10 fold" statement only refers to one characteristic of a battery, and TFA states that there are other tradeoffs that may diminish any improvement.

            If you think this article is telling you that you can buy a $10K EV with a 1000 mile range next week, then that says a lot more about your reading comprehension and lack of familiarity with the nature of scientific research, than

            • From the article:

              Lithium-oxygen batteries, also called lithium-air batteries, have the potential to deliver the desired power thanks to a high energy density - a measure of energy stored for a given weight - that could be 10 times that of lithium-ion batteries and approach that of gasoline.

              Energy density is the main overall measurement for the efficiency of a battery. It is the most important characteristic.

              The "10 fold" statement only refers to one characteristic of a battery, and TFA states that there are other tradeoffs that may diminish any improvement.

              Then why make the outrageous claim in the first place if there is little possibility of it coming true?

              It also claims that lithium oxygen batteries are the same as lithium air batteries with they then contradict by stating that regular air does not work in the battery and that it needs pure oxygen.

              the limitation of needing pure oxygen rather than plain old air.

              This article spells of over promising to get research grants for something

              • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

                Energy density may indeed be "the most important characteristic," but charge time, available power, and reliability over repeated charge cycles are also things consumers care about.

                I am making entirely wild speculations, here, so dismiss them as such:
                - Perhaps with further research, their 10x energy density with 100% oxygen can translate into a 1.5x energy density in normal open air. I'd still be pleased with that.
                - Perhaps there isn't an obvious application for a battery with their characteristics, but the

                • Energy density may indeed be "the most important characteristic," but charge time, available power, and reliability over repeated charge cycles are also things consumers care about.

                  The biggest limitation on electric vehicles is the energy density of batteries. The other factors are important too but if there is not enough energy density the other factors are meaningless.

                  Perhaps with further research, their 10x energy density with 100% oxygen can translate into a 1.5x energy density in normal open air. I'd still be pleased with that.

                  It might be equally likely that the other components of air will make the batter not work at all. Even if they get a 1.5x energy density that is an incremental change and nowhere near their claim.

                  Have you ever heard the story of the boy who cried wolf [storyarts.org]? By making unfounded, sensationalist statements like this so often w

        • Hush! he is going to put on fake hair and run a campaign "to make slashdot great again".
        • by kwoff ( 516741 )
          Yeah yeah, wow so cred... Point out advances, and I bet west could be convinced, but you're being a presumptuous dickhead in the last sentence.
    • "I wish I had an actual breakthrough battery for every battery breakthrough story I've seen "

      To put it another way: If I had a nickel for every one of those stories, I would have my own asteroid by now.

    • Moderate you up, or comment...... I'll take comment.
      Yep yep and yep.
      Even if 1/10 of these stories became real products, we'd be brimming with ridiculously powerful batteries.

      As it stands right now, cell phones continue to have meddling batteries that last 6 hours of continuous use or 1.5 to 2 days at best on standby (and that's for customers who turn off BT, Wifi, GPS when not used)

      I don't need a miracle battery that'll make the phone run for 19 weeks. I'm cool charging it now and then. However a phone whi

  • I sometimes get the feeling that graphene is like the discovery of semiconductors (or possibly of semiconductor doping). It's got revolutionary applications, making the formerly impossible (or at least impractical) practical, and the formerly expensive affordable. On the other hand, at this point in its lifetime it gets used far more in the research lab than in the manufacturing plant, and for all the times it appears in the scientific literature it is slow (or at least, it feels slow) to appear in consumer

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It sure is making a lot of vaporware news releases possible. How many revolutionary products are available today because of graphene?

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      What I find interesting is that the paper says that they used a "reduced graphene oxide electrode". Graphene oxide was first produced in 1859. It's a rather cheap, mass-produceable material, not at all exotic. However it was only first reduced to graphite in 2012 as it was difficult to find a pathway. It's seen as a promising route to cheap mass-produced graphene compared to other routes, with the downside that the resulting product is usually lower quality (although they've made lots of improvements in the

  • 10x the energy density!
    1/5 the cost
    1/5 the weight.

    I mean, why do reports write these stories when they would never write the same story about any other tech with the phantom results?

    Tesla needs 1,200 amps+ *today* Liion can deliver that *TODAY*... in a package that's not too crazy. This is what matters, usable battery tech in a real world application. Let's start having scientists write these breakthrough stories. The only time I see scientists use words like the ones in the article are when they are trying

    • Sorry, but you are wrong. What matters is that the technology available for a $130k car today can be improved on to the point that we may see a $35k car with more power, longer range, lighter weight, etc.

      Research is about what comes next. There are organic improvements and step changes (like lead acid->lithium ion)-- both are important but the step-changes are what changes the world.

    • 10x the energy density!
      1/5 the cost
      1/5 the weight.

      I would prefer to get estimates in Wh/kg, Wh/l or $/Wh. Factors against an unknown baseline just adds confusion.

  • increasing mass?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Saturday October 31, 2015 @06:34PM (#50839413)

    OK, correct me if I'm wrong here, but. . . Won't a lithium-air battery (or an aluminum-air battery, which is also discussed from time to time) actually increase in mass as it discharges? It's pulling oxygen from the air and then binding it into oxides which then have to be carried around until the battery is recharged, right?

  • Any energy storage device that approaches the energy storage density of gasoline will never ever be approved for regular road use.

    No, I am not spinning some dark conspiracy theory about Big Oil. Simply this, if it had not been grandfathered out of product liability laws and hazardous substances regulation, gasoline and diesel will not be approved for use as automobile fuel. All other hydro carbons with the same energy density (42 MJ/Kg), volatility and flammability are strictly regulated.

    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      Simply this, if it had not been grandfathered out of product liability laws and hazardous substances regulation, gasoline and diesel will not be approved for use as automobile fuel. All other hydro carbons with the same energy density (42 MJ/Kg), volatility and flammability are strictly regulated.

      I'm not sure why you make that claim. Natural gas (55.5) is piped into a great many homes for heating and cooking. Propane (46.4) is used in grills on many home decks and torches in many home workshops. Butane (46.

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