Machine Learning Assisted Design of Catalysts for Metal-Air Batteries
Metal-air batteries are attractive for long-ranged electrical vehicles and in-place energy storage due to their high operating voltages and energy densities. Because they utilize an open structure and draw cathode active materials from the air, they also have the potential to be lighter. Despite these advantages metal air batteries are still highly undeveloped with technical hurdles including the discovery of an optimal catalyst.
As a result of the slow reaction kinetics of oxygen reduction (ORR) and oxygen evolution (OER) reactions in metal-air batteries, electrochemical catalysts are critical for fast charge and discharge rates, low overpotentials, and good charge/discharge efficiencies. Current catalysts being explored for metal air battery applications suffer from overvoltages that occur during the OER reactions. While Pt has been identified as a high performing catalyst, it is very expensive, not sustainable for broad applications, and has some long-term stability deficiencies.
SandBox is developing a product that uses a combination of DFT and machine learning intelligence to help its customers narrow the range of catalysts for evaluation by experiment and accelerate their discovery of new catalyst materials. Most existing techniques to screen for catalysts require high-fidelity, and time-consuming numerical simulations. These simulations can sometimes take weeks to complete, and as a result are seldom used in industry. Through machine learning, SandBox plans to overcome the limitations of numerical simulations to be able to rapidly screen potential catalyst materials and construct databases containing a systematic ranking of potential catalysts for ORR and OER.
Screening and identification of an optimal catalyst for metal-air batteries will help usher in a new era of energy storage for electric vehicles (EVs) and in-place storage for intermittent wind and solar sources. Metal air batteries will enable EVs to travel up to 10 times further than with current batteries and make in-home storage for solar efficient.
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