For years, researchers in the battery industry have pushed the technology in this sector forward in order to provide a far efficient product for consumers. Experts in this field are looking for the new successor of lithium-ion batteries being used today.
A candidate for this is the lithium-oxygen battery which can potentially hold a charge far better than lithium-ion. However, a major restriction that's holding lithium-oxygen back is that it produces lithium peroxide, a solid precipitate that covers the surface of the battery's oxygen electrode resulting in decrease efficiency.
Blood Molecule As Catalyst For Lithium-Oxygen Batteries
The challenge for researchers is to find a catalyst capable of facilitating a process known as oxygen evolution reaction where lithium oxide would decompose back into lithium ions and oxygen gas. A promising catalyst that experts are looking into is a blood molecule called heme, reported the Phys.
The heme is a molecule found in the hemoglobin which functions as a transporter of oxygen in the blood. "Heme is the base molecule for hemoglobin," said Andre Taylor, professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale. "We use the heme molecule for the batteries because it has a strong oxygen affinity."
Indeed, when the researchers tested the heme on lithium-oxygen, the molecule improved the battery's cell function by decreasing the amount of energy needed to improve its charge/discharge cycle times. They explained that when used in lithium-oxygen, the molecule would dissolve into the battery's electrolytes and functions as what experts are calling redox mediator.
The redox mediator is responsible for lowering the energy barrier required for the electrochemical reaction to occur. Lithium-oxygen batteries are capable of functioning for weeks without recharging, far longer than what lithium-ion batteries offer, according to NH Register.
Lithium-Oxygen Catalyst Could Open Doors On Green Energy Application
Aside from longer battery life for electric cars, smartphones, and other devices, lithium-oxygen also opens a new door regarding biomass and green energy application. As the catalyst of the battery is a blood molecule, researchers could get mass supply from the animal product sector.
"We're using a biomolecule that traditionally is just wasted," said Taylor. "In the animal products industry, they have to figure out some way to dispose of the blood. Here, we can take the heme molecules from these waste products and use it for renewable energy storage."