New research at the University of Kansas could provide longer-lasting batteries for the majority of electronics and electronic vehicles in the future.

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Xianglin Li, recently received a $219,312, two-year grant from the National Science Foundation to push the development of lithium-oxygen batteries.

“Everyone wants to have better batteries for phones, electronics and cars. The current lithium-ion battery, which is used everywhere, doesn’t have enough energy density,” said Xianglin Li, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

“The research we’re doing on the lithium-oxygen battery represents the next generation of energy storage. Theoretically, it has about one order of magnitude higher storage capacity the lithium-ion. So, if you switch to this in the future, you’ll only need to charge your phone once a week,” said Li.

lithium-oxygen battery design

lithium-oxygen battery design

Source: University of Kansas

According to the University of Kansas investigator, research will stay at the lab stage until the lithium-oxygen batteries are able to discharge energy as fast as the lithium-ion batteries.

Li has plans to work in the X-ray Computed Tomography Facility at Carnegie Mellon University, collaborating with Shawn Lister to develop technology to boost the current density of lithium-oxygen batteries.

Lithium-oxygen batteries must absorb oxygen from the air through nanoscale pores to facilitate reaction. The electrochemical performance of lithium-oxygen batteries depends on the liquid-gas and two-phase flow at the pore scale of the electrode.

“We want to measure the lithium-oxygen battery electrodes and understand how we can transfer oxygen better with an improved design. The battery has to absorb oxygen from the air, so if we don’t supply oxygen fast enough, the power will be limited,” Li said.

The investigation will focus on improving oxygen’s slow mass transfer in battery electrodes.

Li said the project has the potential to result in a patented technology that could push forward research and adoption of the lithium-oxygen technology in the coming years. The researchers plan to form potential partnerships with the local industry and reach out to the public through the Kansas City STEM Alliance.