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Cambridge University creates 'ultimate' battery

Cambridge University creates 'ultimate' battery

For decades, engineers have been excited about a theoretical battery technology called lithium-air, which has an energy density comparable to that of gasoline. So excited, in fact, that it's been dubbed an 'ultimate' battery.

Now, that battery is a reality. Chemists at the University of Cambridge have built a working prototype of a lithium-air battery - and early tests show its impressive properties. As well as the extreme energy density, it's also more than 90% efficient and - to date - can be recharged more than 2000 times.

"What we've achieved is a significant advance for this technology and suggests whole new areas for research," said Clare Grey, senior author on a paper describing the discovery. We haven't solved all the problems inherent to this chemistry, but our results do show routes forward towards a practical device."

'A Lot Of Work To Do'

The advance was made possible with several breakthroughs, including a highly porous 'fluffy' carbon electrode made of graphene and a number of additives that change the chemical reactions going on inside the battery to improve its stability and safety. But the researchers say a practical version of the battery is still at least a decade away.

"There's still a lot of work to do," said Tao Liu, the paper's first author. "But what we've seen here suggests that there are ways to solve these problems – maybe we've just got to look at things a little differently."

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.