Review Article

Advances in understanding mechanisms underpinning lithium–air batteries

  • Nature Energy 1, Article number: 16128 (2016)
  • doi:10.1038/nenergy.2016.128
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Abstract

The rechargeable lithium–air battery has the highest theoretical specific energy of any rechargeable battery and could transform energy storage if a practical device could be realized. At the fundamental level, little was known about the reactions and processes that take place in the battery, representing a significant barrier to progress. Here, we review recent advances in understanding the chemistry and electrochemistry that govern the operation of the lithium–air battery, especially the reactions at the cathode. The mechanisms of O2 reduction to Li2O2 on discharge and the reverse process on charge are discussed in detail, as are their consequences for the rate and capacity of the battery. The various parasitic reactions involving the cathode and electrolyte during discharge and charge are also considered. We also provide views on understanding the stability of the cathode and electrolyte and examine design principles for better lithium–air batteries.

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Acknowledgements

P.G.B. is indebted to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), including the SUPREGEN programme, for financial support. L.F.N. gratefully acknowledges Natural Resources Canada, and also Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for funding through its Discovery and Research Chair programs. D.A. thanks A. Frimer and D. Sharon, BIU for helpful discussions and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) for support in the framework on the INREP project. B.D.M. gratefully acknowledges financial support from the FY 2014 Vehicle Technologies Program Wide Funding Opportunity Announcement, under Award Number DE-FOA-0000991 (0991-1872), by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) on behalf of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Chemistry, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel.

    • Doron Aurbach
  2. Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.

    • Bryan D. McCloskey
  3. Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.

    • Bryan D. McCloskey
  4. Department of Chemistry, The Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada.

    • Linda F. Nazar
  5. Departments of Materials and Chemistry, Parks Road, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PH, UK.

    • Peter G. Bruce

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter G. Bruce.