Since launching and developing the Battery 500 Project, IBM believes it can produce a car battery than can travel 500 miles
IBM designed a battery that produces power by taking in oxygen and then recharges by expelling oxygen.
Because it is driven by the outside air, such a battery can be significantly smaller and lighter than traditional lithium ion batteries, providing a much longer life per square inch.
Researchers have long explored this sort of “lithium-air” battery, but IBM’s demonstration shows it can actually be built.
“The fundamental operation of the battery is no longer in question at all,” says Winfried Wilcke, the senior manager of IBM’s project.
“A lot of other things have to be done before we can put this in a car,” he says. But he believes this will happen some time after 2020.
As it stands, battery-powered cars are far from ubiquitous because current battery technology is too heavy.
The ratio of weight to the amount of power provided means that you can’t have battery that duplicates what you get from a tank of fuel.
Improvement to battery technology may give you move power, but this is often offset by added weight.
What Wilcke and his team have done is remove the oxygen from their batteries, relying instead on the oxygen in the surrounding air.
Oxygen flows into the battery’s “open system” cell, much as it moves into a combustion engine. Inside this cell, it slips into tiny spaces that measure about an angstrom (0.00000000001 meters), and it then reacts with lithium ions on the battery’s cathode.
That reaction turns the lithium ions to lithium peroxide, releasing electrons and generating electricity for the engine.