The days of $1.50 gasoline are long gone, and high costs coupled with environmental concerns have ignited a search for the battery that will power the cars of the future. IBM is at the forefront of this effort with its development of the lithium air super-battery.
The goal “is to create a battery that will power the typical family car about 500 miles between recharges,” explains Winfried Wilcke, Senior Manager, Nanoscale Science and Technology with IBM. “Today’s batteries…fall short of this goal by quite a factor, with [the best batteries] only lasting approximately 200 to 240 miles.”
Bridging this gap requires drastically increasing the battery’s energy density by making it lighter. IBM reduces the weight by getting rid of the heavy transition metal oxides like cobalt oxide or manganese oxide and replacing them with a lightweight, high-surface carbon structure.
The lithium air battery represents “the highest energy density of any imaginable system,” says Wilcke, “but it’s not easy to do. It’s a long-term project currently in its early science phases, but in the last six or seven months we have gotten a lot of positive results, which make me cautiously optimistic that this can actually work.”
Wilcke hopes to have a lithium air battery in cars by 2020. A battery that could power a car for 500 miles would certainly be worth the wait.
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