Boost for next-generation EV batteries

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A research team, affiliated with UNIST has announced that a new catalyst could help boost MAB performance, such as discharge and charge efficiency..

Recently developed the new catalyst could help to boost the performance of Metal-Air Batteries (MABs), which use oxygen from ambient air as recourses to store and convert energy. These batteries have received considerable attention for their potential use in electric vehicles (EVs) owing to their large storage capacity, lightweight, and affordability.

A research team, led by Professor Guntae Kim in the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST (Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology), has unveiled a new composite catalyst that could efficiently enhance the charge-discharge performances when applied to MABs.

It is a form of very thin layer of metal oxide films deposited on a surface of perovskite catalysts, and the interface that’s naturally formed between the two catalysts enhances the overall performance and stability of the new catalyst.

Metal-air batteries (MABs), in which oxygen from the atmosphere reacts with metals to generate electricity, are one of the lightest and most compact types of batteries.

They are equipped with anodes made up of pure metals (i.e. Lithium, Zinc, Magnesium, and Aluminum) and an air cathode that is connected to air. Due to their high theoretical energy density, MABs have been considered a strong candidate for next-generation electric vehicles.

MABs currently use rare and expensive metal catalysts for their air electrodes, such as platinum (Pt). This has held back its further commercialisation so, as an alternative, perovskite catalysts that exhibit excellent catalyic performance have been proposed, however there were issues with low activation barriers.

Professor Kim has solved this issue with a new composite catalyst combining two types of catalysts, each of which showed excellent performance in charge and discharge reactions. The metal catalyst (cobalt oxide), which performs well in charging, is deposited on a very thin layer on top of the manganese-based perovskite catalyst (LSM), which performs well in discharge. As a result, the synergistic effect of the two catalysts became optimal when the deposition process was repeated 20 times.

“During the repeated deposition and oxidation cycles of atomic layer deposition (ALD) process, the Mn cations diffuse into Co3O4 from LSM, and therefore, the LSM-20-Co catalyst is composed of LSM encapsulated with the self-reconstructedspinel interlayer (Co3O4/MnCo32O4/LSM),” explained Arim Seong (Combined M.S/Ph.D. of Energy and Chemical Engineering, UNIST), the first author of the study. “This has enhanced the catalytic activity of the hybrid catalyst, LSM-20-Co, leading to superior bifunctional electrochemical performances for the ORR and the OER in alkaline solutions.”

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the self-reconstructed interlayer induced by the in-situ cation diffusion during ALD process for designing an efficient and stable bifunctional catalyst for alkaline zinc-air batteries,” according to the research team.

“Our findings provide the rational design strategy of self-reconstructed interlayer for efficient electro-catalyst,” says Professor Kim. “Therefore, this work can provide insight into the rational design strategy of metal oxide with perovskite materials.”

Author
Neil Tyler

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