Scientists Add Gold to Boost Lithium Car Battery Range

A rechargeable, air-breathing battery that can store up to 10 times the energy of today’s conventional lithium ion batteries could be just the breakthrough that makes electric cars practical—if it ever leaves the laboratory. Scientists worldwide are searching for the right combination of materials that could make a working lithium–air battery a reality, not to mention stand up to the rigors of repeated charging and discharging.

Today, however, chemists have unveiled a material that seems to do the trick: gold.

Researchers at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland are the first to acknowledge that an electric car battery made of gold would not be practical. But by using gold in an experimental battery, they have taken a crucial step on the way to a viable mass-market lithium battery that can power an electric car for hundreds of kilometers between charges.

The Saint Andrews chemists, in a paper published in the journal Science on Friday, describe how an experimental lithium–air battery featuring an organic electrolyte (dimethyl sulfoxide) and a porous gold electrode maintained 95 percent capacity after 100 charge–discharge–recharge cycles.

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