MIT Energy Initiative

Lithium air batteries

New catalysts push up lagging efficiency in lightweight batteries for electric cars

Koffi Pierre Claver Yao, Yang Shao-Horn, and Yi-Chun LuCredit: Justin Knight

Every experiment is like a discovery for us because there’s no previous experimental data to reference or to look at.

Yang Shao-Horn, professor

If electric cars are to provide the range that drivers demand, they need batteries that can deliver lots more energy, pound for pound, than today’s best lithium-ion batteries can. Lithium-air batteries could—in theory—meet that challenge, but while they are far lighter than their lithium-ion cousins, they are not nearly as efficient. MIT researchers have now demonstrated significant gains on that front. Using specially designed catalysts, they have made lithium-air batteries with unprecedented efficiency, meaning that more of the energy put in during charging comes out as useful electricity during discharging. Less energy is lost at each recharge — an advance that addresses one of the major stumbling blocks with this promising technology.

Research Team

Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli Mechanical and Biological Engineering
Hubert Gasteiger Technical University of Munich
Yi-Chun Lu Materials Science and Engineering
Koffi Pierre Claver Yao Mechanical Engineering