SCHOTT solutions no. 2/2012 > Research and Technology

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On the Road to True Electromobility

New lithium-air batteries could greatly extend the range of tomorrow’s electric cars. SCHOTT is developing an innovative ion-conducting material for this purpose as part of a funded research project.

Thilo Horvatitsch

The experts agree: electric cars will not break into the mainstream until more efficient batteries are developed that enable cars to go hundreds of miles on a single charge. Until now, high-performance rechargeable batteries have generally been too heavy; high production costs and safety concerns have also hindered cost-effective and affordable mass production. Industry experts and researchers have reacted by focusing on one overarching goal: increase batteries’ energy density while reducing production costs. Today’s lithium-ion batteries can produce up to 180 watt-hours of power per kilogram (Wh/kg); impressive, but still far less than fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel, which yield approximately 10,000 Wh/kg. In a crowded field of competing storage technologies, a new rechargeable battery may soon grab the lead: lithium-air batteries, once they are in a commercially viable form, promise 300 to 500 percent greater storage capacities of up to 1,000 Wh/kg, which means electric cars with much longer ranges.
Measurements are performed on the conductivity of ion-conducting glass-ceramics at a SCHOTT laboratory. Photo: SCHOTT/C. Costard
The German government is funding research to apply this techno­logy toward the development of rechargeable, long-lasting, and safe storage media. This cooperative project includes top-class institutes and companies such as the University of Münster’s MEET Battery Research Center, the SCHOTT technology group, and industry partners such as Rockwood Lithium, Varta Microbattery and Volkswagen AG.

The project’s German abbreviation is GLANZ (”SHINE”), which stands for “anodes and cells protected by glass” and references a key development by SCHOTT: an innovative ion-conducting special glass-ceramic material. ”Ion conduction in solid materials is an important area for us in both current and future research, and we are optimistic that we will be able to successfully apply our relevant expertise to an area of application that is new to us,” comments Dr. Wolfgang Schmidbauer, the project coordinator for SCHOTT. The groundbreaking project will run through 2014 and make important progress on the road to environmentally friendly, resource-saving electromobility. <|

A groundbreaking battery system: lithium-air