Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing a battery which could be made partly from carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from power plants.

The new battery, which is far from commercial deployment, could continuously convert CO2 into a solid mineral carbonate as it discharges. 

If the new battery is successfully developed, it will open up new ways for tailoring electrochemical CO2 conversion reactions, which may ultimately help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.

The MIT battery is made from lithium metal, carbon, and an electrolyte that the researchers designed and the findings were published in the journal Joule, in a paper by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Betar Gallant, doctoral student Aliza Khurram, and postdoc Mingfu He.

“What we’ve shown for the first time is that this technique activates the carbon dioxide for more facile electrochemistry,” said Gallant.

“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.”

By incorporating the gas in a liquid state, Gallant and her co-workers found a way to achieve electrochemical CO2 conversion using only a carbon electrode. The key is to pre-activate the CO2 by incorporating it into an amine solution.

More research is planned into the rechargeability of the battery, which is limited to 10 charge-discharge cycles and prevent degradation of the cell components.

“Lithium-carbon dioxide batteries are years away,” said Gallant.