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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Cool Fix / Air Batteries

Air Date: Week of May 13, 2011

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The lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars today may be good for the environment, but they are too bulky. Now, researchers are developing what they call a lithium-air battery that will weigh less and give more. Living on Earth’s Sean Faulk reports.


GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman. Just ahead - chili today, hot tomorrow: global warming and picking a peck of hot peppers. But first, here's a Cool Fix for a Hot Planet from Sean Faulk.


FAULK: Thousands of cars on the road today now run on batteries instead of gas. With far fewer emissions than gas, batteries are great for the environment, but they weigh down a car and take up lots of space. Now, researchers have designed a battery that is partly made of air.

Electric cars today use lithium-ion batteries that contain lithium and other metals. Scientists at the Savannah River National Laboratory in South Carolina replaced those metals with oxygen to create what they call a lithium-air battery. It draws oxygen from the air, which reacts with the lithium to release energy. Researchers calculate that this new battery could supply up to ten times as much energy as a standard lithium-ion battery of the same weight. And this would allow batteries in electric cars to provide as much energy, pound for pound, as gasoline.

Scientists say the new lithium-air battery is still a long way from commercial use. But when it does come to market, drivers can say they are riding on air.

That’s this week’s Cool Fix for a Hot Planet, I’m Sean Faulk.

(Photo: Patrick Gillooly/MIT)


GELLERMAN: And if you have a Cool Fix for a Hot Planet - we'd love to hear it! Email it to Coolfix@loe.org. That’s Coolfix, all one word, at L-O-E dot org, or post it on our Facebook page - PRI’s Living on Earth. And if we use your idea on the air, we’ll send you a cool LOE shiny blue tire gauge.




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