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Air-fueled battery boosts capacity tenfold


May 20, 2009

Oxygen drawn from the air reacts within the porous carbon to release the electrical charge in the STAIR battery

Oxygen drawn from the air reacts within the porous carbon to release the electrical charge in the STAIR battery

May 21, 2009 Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are the preferred power storage technology for the vast majority of portable devices, such as cell phones, laptop computers and MP3 players. They have also made their way into electric cars, but even with recent developments making them more effective, storage capacity continues to remain a problem. Now researchers at the University of St Andrews, with associates at Strathclyde and Newcastle, have developed a new type of air-fueled battery that could provide up to 10 times the energy storage of existing designs, paving the way for a new generation of electric cars and portable devices.

Dubbed the STAIR (St Andrews Air), the new battery improves capacity by adding a carbon component. Oxygen drawn in through a surface of the battery exposed to air reacts within the pores of the carbon to discharge the battery. The discovery that the carbon component’s interaction with air can be repeated, creating a cycle of charge and discharge, led to the development of the new battery.

The technology should result in cheaper batteries since this process is free and the carbon component is less expensive than the lithium cobalt oxide used in lithium-ion batteries. Also, by replacing one of the chemical components of rechargeable batteries, more energy can be created by the same-sized battery. Reducing the size and weight of batteries, without compromising their charge capacity, should allow developers of electric cars to produce vehicles with greater range and provide longer life for portable devices.

Initial results from the research project found a capacity-to-weight ratio of 1,000 milli-amp/hours per gram of carbon (mA/hours/g), while recent work achieved up to 4,000 mA/hours/g. Although the STAIR and lithium cobalt oxide technologies work very differently, the results equate to an eight-fold increase using the porous carbon electrode compared to the lithium cobalt oxide electrode found in standard cell phones.

The researchers believe the new design not only has the potential to improve the performance of portable electronic products, but also provide a major boost to renewable energy from sources, such as wind and solar by getting around the problem of intermittent supply when the weather changes or night falls. By discharging batteries to provide electricity and recharging them when the wind blows or sun shines, renewable energy becomes a much more viable option.

The researchers estimate that it will be at least five years before the STAIR cell is commercially available.

Darren Quick

Via ScientificBlogging

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

It appears that the battery removes lithium cobalt oxide with a lithium oxygen compound, as well as adding a carbon component. What I don't understand is whether lithium is being used at all, as the figure demonstrates.


This looks pretty Simple.. how could we have missed it so far !! I am however concerned that the battery may prove troublesome for astronauts in satellites if it shares their Oxygen, this will have to be taken into account while designing the mission.. the similar problem will be faced in manned submarines.. But I am not sure how this will work on unmanned Space and underwater vehicles, even Ariel drones will have to be redesigned to supply air to the battery compartment at high altitudes.

But it looks great for simple land-based applications..

Sougata Pahari

my,my,,,,,,,,,,, so much good is coming out of the "oil crisis ",,,,,,,,, the boffins are working overtime and really getting results from advanced battery technology


The figure they\'ve conveniently not divulged is discharge rate. If the discharge rate is slower than lead acid, it wont be that effective in autos. I see the oxygen component of this battery limiting its potential discharge rate. We\'ll just have to wait and see what it is.

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