IBM, Sanyo, & Japanese Researchers Announce Li-Ion Battery Developments

October 08, 2009 by Jeff Shepard

IBM, Sanyo, and the researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) issued major announcements in the field of lithium battery research during the past week.

IBM is sponsoring a research project consisting of a consortium of some of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers, focused on the development of a new type of lithium-air battery, capable of powering an electric vehicle for more than 500 miles.

IBM plans to harness its nanoscale semiconductor manufacturing techniques to boost the capacity of batteries by increasing their storage density by 10 times over the lithium-ion batteries used today. The Battery 500 Project aims to achieve that goal with a lithium-air battery technology, whose feasibility was demonstrated earlier this year at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Lithium-air batteries are unique in that instead of being a sealed system, they couple to atmospheric oxygen – essentially harnessing the oxygen in the air as the cathode of the battery. Since oxygen enters the battery on-demand, it offers an essentially unlimited amount of reactant, metered only by the surface area of its electrodes. IBM believes its nanoscale semiconductor fabrication techniques can increase the surface area of the lithium-air battery’s electrodes by at least 100 times, enabling them to meet the goals of the project.

According to Sanyo, a breakthrough in battery technology now allows its eneloop brand to be recharged up to 1,500 times, a 50% improvement over the original design.

"Incorporating new technologies for ’material,’ ’manufacturing methods,’ and ’structure’ developed through the knowledge gained since the first release of eneloop in November 2005, the number of times a battery can be recharged has been increased by 1.5 times to approximately 1,500 times compared to conventional models, which makes the total number of times it is able to be recharged the industry No. 1," Sanyo stated in a press release.

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have developed a prototype of a battery that can simultaneously offer the high cell voltage of Li-ion cells and the large cell capacity of Ni-MH cells: a rechargeable nickel (cathode) / lithium metal (anode) battery using a hybrid aqueous and organic electrolyte separated by a superionic conductor glass ceramic film.

A rechargeable Ni-Li battery, in which nickel hydroxide serving as a cathode in an aqueous electrolyte and Li metal serving as an anode in an organic electrolyte were integrated by a superionic conductor glass ceramic film (LISICON), was proposed with the expectation to combine the advantages of both a Li-ion battery and Ni-MH battery. It has the potential for an ultrahigh theoretical energy density of 935 Wh/kg, twice that of a Li-ion battery (414 Wh/kg), based on the active material in electrodes. A prototype Ni-Li battery fabricated in the present work demonstrated a cell voltage of 3.47 V and a capacity of 264 mAh/g with good retention during 50 cycles of charge/discharge. This battery system with a hybrid electrolyte provides a new avenue for the best combination of electrode/electrolyte/electrode to fulfill the potential of high energy density as well as high power density.