Developing renewable energy sources to power vehicles
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Jan. 21, 2016) — Researchers at the University of Louisville’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research are developing science to power cars hundreds—or even thousands—of miles through renewable energy sources that don’t require gasoline.
Researchers are undertaking a wide range of renewable energy research challenges, including those aimed at developing new energy storage systems for vehicles and other guzzlers of non-renewable energy.
Conn Center post-doctoral researcher Bijandra Kumar works on energy storage and solar fuels, where sunlight is used to split water for hydrogen production and carbon dioxide-to-liquified fuel conversions. He is one of the authors of an article in the prestigious magazine Nature, titled, “A lithium-oxygen battery based on lithium superoxide,” published this month.
The manuscript details work on a Lithium-oxygen (Li-air) battery, in which oxygen is consumed (discharging process) and released (charging process) at the cathode, or negatively charged battery electrode. Theoretically, Li-air batteries have close to the same energy density as gasoline. This breakthrough in the field of Li-air batteries is the first time the reversible formation and decomposition of lithium superoxide (LiO2), rather than lithium peroxide (Li2O2), has been reported.
The Li-air battery has the potential of providing five times the energy density of lithium ion, which is a well known battery chemistry featured in many rechargeable products. “The development of new and efficient renewable energy systems is the promise of the next generation.” Kumar says.
Manufacturing a battery that can produce enough energy to run for hundreds of miles without the need for recharging is the goal of scientists around the world as part of an effort to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. An inexpensive catalyst to make lithium superoxide would pave the way for a major breakthrough in battery manufacturing. Conn Center is currently working in this direction.