Scientists have managed to develop a “proof-of-concept” design of a rechargeable lithium-nitrogen battery that uses atmospheric nitrogen thereby opening door-ways to much cheaper energy storage in future.
While the work is still in its initial stages, scientists behind the new design say that their study on a nitrogen fixation battery system not only provides fundamental and technological progress in the energy storage system but also creates an advanced N2/Li3N (nitrogen gas/lithium nitride) cycle for a reversible nitrogen fixation process.
As we strive towards cheaper energy sources including renewable energy, there is a need to look at avenues that we haven’t explored till date. Scientists at Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry decided to check out atmospheric nitrogen considering its abundance and cheap availability.
However, nitrogen gas, which consists of two nitrogen atoms held together by a strong, triple covalent bond, doesn’t break apart under normal conditions, presenting a challenge to scientists who want to transfer the chemical energy of the bond into electricity.
In the journal Chem on April 13, researchers in China present one approach to capturing atmospheric nitrogen that can be used in a battery. The “proof-of-concept” design works by reversing the chemical reaction that powers existing lithium-nitrogen batteries. Instead of generating energy from the breakdown of lithium nitride (2Li3N) into lithium and nitrogen gas, the researchers’ battery prototype runs on atmospheric nitrogen in ambient conditions and reacts with lithium to form lithium nitride. Its energy output is brief but comparable to that of other lithium-metal batteries.