A Reversible and Higher-Rate Li-O2 Battery

Science  03 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6094, pp. 563-566
DOI: 10.1126/science.1223985

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Improving Lithium Batteries

Lithium-oxygen batteries have similar volumetric energy densities to lithium-ion batteries, but, because the oxygen part of the battery can be extracted from the air, they have a significant advantage in their gravimetric energy densities. One of the fundamental problems plaguing the nonaqueous Li-O2 system is that the Li2O2 that forms on discharge must be completely reversed on charging, but for most systems, a range of side products form instead of Li2O2. Peng et al. (p. 563, published online 19 July) show that by using dimethyl sulfoxide as the electrolyte, and a porous gold cathode, they can get reversible production and removal of Li2O2 during discharge and charge cycles. Furthermore, the electrolyte-electrode system operates with much faster kinetics than carbon electrodes.


The rechargeable nonaqueous lithium-air (Li-O2) battery is receiving a great deal of interest because, theoretically, its specific energy far exceeds the best that can be achieved with lithium-ion cells. Operation of the rechargeable Li-O2 battery depends critically on repeated and highly reversible formation/decomposition of lithium peroxide (Li2O2) at the cathode upon cycling. Here, we show that this process is possible with the use of a dimethyl sulfoxide electrolyte and a porous gold electrode (95% capacity retention from cycles 1 to 100), whereas previously only partial Li2O2 formation/decomposition and limited cycling could occur. Furthermore, we present data indicating that the kinetics of Li2O2 oxidation on charge is approximately 10 times faster than on carbon electrodes.

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