Researchers at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have reportedly developed a "large capacity, low cost" lithium-copper air fuel cell that utilizes an electrolyte made of organic, solid and aqueous materials. The fuel cell generates electricity via a complex copper-corrosion "phenomenon" that AIST describes like this:
A copper positive electrode is placed in the aqueous electrolyte and metallic lithium is used as a negative electrode in the organic electrolyte. The copper electrode is oxidized by oxygen in the air to generate copper (I) oxide (Cu2O). Upon discharge, lithium atoms of the negative electrode supply electrons to the wire and dissolve as lithium ions, which go through the solid electrolyte towards the aqueous electrolyte.
Some people QFT. We sometimes quote to make sure we don't write it wrong. In any case, the prototype lithium-copper air fuel cell apparently displays a remarkably stable discharge rate and, AIST claims, its low cost and high capacity could make it ideal for future automotive applications. Maybe by the time it does, our science knowledge will have improved enough to understand what that all means.At the positive electrode, supplied electrons reduce Cu2O molecules to copper atoms that precipitate on the electrode. After the discharge, copper is oxidized again through copper-corrosion reaction. In this way, oxygen is electrochemically reduced and copper works as catalysts of the oxygen reduction.