Characterization of Li-air batteries as an option to increase Electrical Vehicle range

Claudia Torres Garibay, Oregon Institute of Technology

Summary:

The topic of the presented research tackles the main cause by which Electrical Vehicles (EVs) have not replaced conventional gasoline vehicles: battery capacity. This partially-funded project investigates the early development of Lithium-Air batteries as a solution to the limited range of EVs. With a theoretical energy density comparable to gasoline, this technology is the most viable solution to date to increase the energy capacity of EVs. Although Lithium-Air batteries offer an attractive alternative, the current stage of the technology still requires long-term actions to develop a commercial product. The proposed research would explore the current development of the technology as well as establish the common ground for future projects within the REE program. Furthermore, alternative innovative electrolyte compositions will be explored and successful results will be submitted for a publication in a peer-reviewed journal. With successful funding of the second phase, this project will be able to develop the foundation of a research group in the Oregon University System that will grasp on this early-research-stage technology and demonstrate the OUS’s intellectual capabilities utilizing in-kind equipment.

The current status of Li-Air battery demonstrates some fundamental concerns that limit the technology from being commercially-ready. To meet the “advanced energy storage for EVs” goals set by the United States Advances Battery Consortium (USABC), the stability and cyclability of the lithium-oxygen reaction in the present battery has to be dramatically improved. The youth of this research field offers many unexplored niches to research before a final product can be developed. The overall goal of the proposed work is to establish the foundation for multiple other projects directed towards the long-term development of high-capacity batteries for EVs. This project has two primary objectives: 

OBJECTIVE 1: Evaluate the limitations and potentials of Li-Air batteries through primary experimental testing. (520 hrs) 
Prior to experimental research, an extensive literature review on Li-Air technology will help determine the current limitations in the field and consider possible approaches to address those issues. A state-of-the-art evaluation of different materials will determine electrode compositions by partial characterization. The goals of this phase are to familiarize with the institution’s facility, determine the limits of the equipment and construct different Li-Air batteries. 

OBJECTIVE 2: Collect capacity and electrochemical performance data for an array of cathode compositions for Li-Air batteries. (600 hrs) 
Stability and cyclability of Li-air batteries are affected by every component in the cell. However, it has been demonstrated that the electrolyte decomposition and the electrolyte’s side reactions are the two most-affecting factors in the stability and cyclability of the battery. Based on the results of Objective 1, batteries with different types of cathode materials will be characterized by collecting capacity and electrochemical performance data. According to the literature different composition of electrolyte salts and solvents react differently with the air cathode and many combinations have yet been explored.

OUTCOMES –The overall transportation initiative at Oregon Tech consist of two pilot projects that will create a new field of interest in the accredited Renewable Energy Engineering department. The expected products and outcomes of the Small Start pilot project presented in this application are: 
1. A report of experimental data regarding characterization of Li-Air batteries with different cathodes. 
2. An experimental laboratory set-up and preliminary study that will serve as foundation for future students to build their projects on. 
3. A highly qualified graduate students (recruited and working with Dr. Torres Garibay) with skills in state-of-the-art research, quantitative data analysis and an extensive knowledge of battery testing techniques and characterization. 

Impacts:

1.Establishment of a experimental research station at Oregon Tech for Li-air batteries. 

2. Better understanding of the impact of cathode materials on the lifespan of Li-air batteries.
Different types of carbon are being used as cathode materials, while using same electrolyte and electrodes. A side-by-side comparison of the effect of cathode materials on battery performance was done. Multiple batteries of the each cathode composition will be built and tested to ensure consistency.
The results of this study are documented in a MS thesis that will be defended over the summer.

Project Details

Project Type:
Small Starts
Project Status:
Completed
End Date:
June 30,2014
UTC Grant Cycle:
Tier 1 Small Starts Round 1
UTC Funding:
$10,000