The billions of dollars a year in battery research is being undertaken as everyone knows the big payoff for transportation and energy storage. If you had an electric car that could run 1000 miles between charges then this would bring about a major paradigm shift in consumer spending habits. The LiAir and Li-H2O battery development is just one of many dozens of examples that may well achieve this.
The other important factor is cost. If you increase the energy density you can either extend the range or reduce the number of batteries needed. Halve the number of existing batteries needed today and the electric vehicle will retail for less than the the cheapest combustion engine models.
PolyPlus is developing rechargeable and non-rechargeable Li-Air, and Li-Seawater batteries based on protected Li electrodes. At a nominal potential of about 3 volts, the theoretical specific energy for a lithium/air battery is over 5000 Wh/kg for the reaction forming LiOH and 11,000 Wh/kg for the reaction forming Li2O2 or for the reaction of lithium with dissolved oxygen in seawater, rivaling the energy density for hydrocarbon fuel cells and far exceeding Li-ion battery chemistry that has a theoretical specific energy of about 400 Wh/kg. PolyPlus intends to first commercialize non-rechargeable Li/Air and Li/Seawater batteries followed by the introduction of rechargeable Li/Air. The projected energy density and specific energy for commercial Li-Air batteries is on the order of 1000 Wh/l and 1000 Wh/kg. Lithium/Seawater batteries which use the ocean as the positive electrode are even more energy dense and should be introduced commercially at about 1500 Wh/l and 1500 Wh/kg. Li/Air and Li/Seawater batteries are based on non-toxic materials and are environmentally benign.
PolyPlus uses a solid electrolyte membrane to prevent direct electron transfer from the negative electrode to species in the aqueous electrolyte, therefore extending the voltage window from the oxidative limit of the aqueous electrolyte to the lithium electrode potential (~ 4.5 V). This technology allows the construction of practical aqueous lithium batteries with cell voltages similar to those of conventional Li-ion or lithium primary batteries, but with much higher energy density (for H2O or O2 cathodes). They have observed that the PLE is remarkably stable to aqueous electrolytes and does not appear to be susceptible to parasitic side reactions that can lead to self-discharge in batteries.
PolyPlus started operations in Berkeley, California in 1991 based on innovations made by two scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for an environmentally friendly and cost-effective lithium/organosulfur battery. PolyPlus also developed and patented the related lithium/sulfur battery, which has been licensed to a U.S. manufacturer and is now a commercial product. The management team at PolyPlus Battery Company is composed of Dr. Steven J. Visco, Chief Executive Officer & CTO and Founder; Rudolph Hurwich, President & CFO and Founder; Prof. Lutgard C. De Jonghe, Chairman & Founder; Dr. May-Ying Chu, COO & Founder; and Dr. Eugene Nimon, Director of Research.
PolyPlus Battery Company currently has 27 employees including 7 PhDs. Since its founding in 1990, the Company has been supported by a combination of private, industry and government funding.