Charging Carbon Dioxide Batteries and Clearing the Air

We would love to find ways to reduce carbon dioxide as a threat to our climate with an ever-decreasing timeline for accomplishing that task.  University of Illinois at Chicago and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have made inroads into creating a carbon dioxide battery that uses CO2 as an energy storage component.

Amin Salehi-Khojin, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC’s College of Engineering, explains, “Lithium-carbon dioxide batteries have been attractive for a long time, but in practice, we have been unable to get one that is truly efficient until now.”

A 7X Battery

The incentive to use CO2 comes from lithium-carbon dioxide batteries having a specific energy density more than seven times greater than conventional lithium-ion cells.  Unfortunately, until now, Li-CO2 batteries haven’t been rechargeable – at least for a reasonable number of cycles.

Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have demonstrated, “lithium-carbon dioxide batteries can be designed to operate in a fully rechargeable manner, and they have successfully tested a lithium-carbon dioxide battery prototype running up to 500 consecutive cycles of charge/recharge processes.”

Their findings are published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Salehi Khojin and his team (20 listed authors for the paper) found a way to avoid carbon buildup on the battery’s catalyst, which invariably leads to battery failure.

Alireza Ahmadiparidari, first author of the paper and a UIC College of Engineering graduate student, explained, “The accumulation of carbon not only blocks the active sites of the catalyst and prevents carbon dioxide diffusion, but also triggers electrolyte decomposition in a charged state.”

Salehi-Khojin and his colleagues used molybdenum disulfide as a cathode catalyst combined with a hybrid electrolyte to help incorporate carbon in the cycling process.

That combination of materials produces a single multi-component composite of products rather than separate products, making recycling more efficient.

Salehi-Khojin noted, “Our unique combination of materials helps make the first carbon-neutral lithium carbon dioxide battery with much more efficiency and long-lasting cycle life, which will enable it to be used in advanced energy storage systems.”

U of I Chicago researchers tried dozens of catalysts to achieve working Li-CO2 battery. Cars would have much-improved range with new cells

Dr. Larry Curtiss’ group at Argonne National Lab performed theoretical calculations used to deduce a mechanism for the reversible operation of the battery.

Leily Majidi, Mohammad Asadi, Amir Chamaani, Jacob Jokisaari, Sina Rastegar, Sahra Hemmat, Baharak Sayahpour, Pedram Abbasi and Robert Klie of UIC; Robert Warburton and Jeffrey Greeley of Purdue University; and Rajeev Assary, Badri Narayanan, Paul Redfern, Anh Ngo, Marton Voros and Larry Curtis of Argonne National Laboratory are co-authors on the paper.

This research was supported, in part, by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the National Science Foundation, grant NSF-DMREF award No. 1729420.

Earlier Efforts at MIT

MIT researchers had found another way to make a lithium anode and carbon electrode into a working battery.  After pre-activating carbon dioxide in an amine solution, it is, “Then combined with another liquid electrolyte, and used in the battery with a carbon cathode and a lithium anode.”

A scanning electron microscope image of the carbon cathode of MIT’s new lithium-carbon dioxide battery. Over time carbon dioxide builds up in a solid form on the surface, as compared to the original surface state (inset)

Betar Gallant, an author of the study explained, “These two chemistries — aqueous amines and nonaqueous battery electrolytes — are not normally used together, but we found that their combination imparts new and interesting behaviors that can increase the discharge voltage and allow for sustained conversion of carbon dioxide.”

The MIT researchers did not achieve the high outputs as those at U of I and did not realize the large number of charge-discharge cycles. MIT sees success at some future point, though.  Often, cross-pollination between research projects leads to even greater results.  We wish both teams well and look forward to progress reports.

The research was published in the journal Joule.

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