Global Technology - February 2019

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Lithium-air batteries, which currently are still in the experimental stages of development, are already expected to be ten times more energy efficient than lithium-ion batteries, and they are much lighter. That said, lithium-air batteries could be even more efficient and provide more charge with the incorporation of advanced catalysts made from two-dimensional materials.

Catalysts help increase the rate of chemical reactions inside batteries and depending on the type of material from which the catalyst is made, they can help significantly boost the ability of the battery to hold and provide energy.  Consumers are going to need very high-energy density batteries to power new advanced technologies that are incorporated into phones, laptops and especially electric cars and aircraft.  The researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Purdue University synthesized several 2D materials that can serve as catalysts.  When incorporated into experimental lithium-air batteries, these catalysts enabled the battery to hold up to 10 times more energy than lithium-air batteries containing traditionalcatalysts.

According to the researchers, electric vehicles averageabout 100 miles per charge, but with the incorporation of 2D catalysts into lithium-air batteries, the average number would be 400-to-500 miles per charge, which would be a real game-changer.

The research published in the journal Advanced Materialsdescribes how the team synthesized 15 different types of 2D transition metal catalyst called TMDCs. TMDCs are unique compounds because they have high electronic conductivity and fast electron transfer that can be used to participate in reactions with other materials, such as the reactions that take place inside batteries during charging and discharging.

The investigators experimentally studied the performance of 15 TMDCs as catalysts in an electrochemical system mimicking a lithium-air battery.  One of the reasons the 2D TDMCs performed so well is because they help speed both charging and discharging reactions occurring in lithium-air batteries.  This is referred to as the “bi-functionality”of the catalyst.

The 2D materials also synergize with the electrolyte — the material through which...

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