Supercomputers for Li-air materials

A research team including scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and IBM is to use two of the world’s most powerful supercomputers to design new materials for a lithium-air battery that could power a car for 500 miles on a single charge.

Lithium-ion batteries, used in today’s emerging plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, currently have a range of approximately 40 to 100 miles.

The calculations will be performed at Oak Ridge and Argonne, which house two of the world’s top 10 fastest computers, as part of the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) programme, which promotes research that can be conducted only with supercomputers.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory director Thom Mason said the battery project came about as the result of two visits to Oak Ridge in 2009 by IBM’s vice president of research.

‘Argonne is committed to developing lithium-air technologies,’ said Eric Isaacs, Argonne director. ‘The obstacles to Li-air batteries becoming a viable technology are formidable, but the modelling and simulation capabilities of the supercomputers will help us accelerate the innovations required in materials science, chemistry and engineering.’