The 500 Mile Electric Car Battery

By Bill Moore

Posted: 03 Oct 2009

IBM's Battery 500 Project aims to increase the energy density of electric car batteries by a factor of ten by exploiting nano technology to develop a lithium-air battery that could propel a family-size sedan 300-500 miles, enough to rival the best gasoline engine.

It kicked-off the project at its Almaden Laboratory in San Jose, California. The accompanying video features some of the researchers to participated in the meeting, including "Two Million Cars" author and UC Davis professor Dan Sperling.

The challenge is that lithium can violently react with water vapor in the atmosphere. Writes R. Colin Johnson in Smarter Technology:

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.
IBM engineers see this as a two-three year science project that will involve tapping the computational power its super computers to help understand and eventually develop manufacturing processes for their 500 mile battery.

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