Researchers unveil new lithium-sulphur battery technology

Battery Technology Representation

Researchers unveil new lithium-sulphur battery technology

Smartphones and electric cars have seen serious technological advancements in recent years, but poor battery life still plagues these devices. The Li-S battery promises enough power to run a smartphone for five days.

"Most commercial batteries are lithium-ion, but lithium-sulfur alternatives have always been attractive due to their higher energy density and ability to power objects for longer", reports CNN. According to The Faraday Institution, there are also "major" issues with the insulating nature of sulfur, the loss of active battery material over time, and the degradation of the lithium anode. But until now, Li-S batteries haven't been able to maintain their high-energy performance over time because the sulfur electrode, which expands and contracts during power cycles (the process of a battery going from fully charged to completely empty, and then back to fully recharged), tends to break apart over repeated charging cycles, killing the battery quickly.

The global effort was led by Dr Mahdokht Shaibani of the university's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, with team members from the University of Liege in Belgium and Dresden, Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology. Despite having higher energy densities and being able to power electronics for longer, they are only sometimes used in aircraft and auto batteries.

The Monash team reconfigured the design of sulphur cathodes so they can accommodate higher stress loads without a drop in capacity or performance.

'Successful fabrication and implementation of lithium-sulphur batteries in cars and grids will capture a more significant part of the estimated $213 billion value chain of Australian lithium, and will revolutionise the Australian vehicle market and provide all Australians with a cleaner and more reliable energy market, ' said Professor Mahdokht Shaibani from Monash University in Australia. It's hard to put this in perspective since there aren't any Li-S batteries now available on the market, but according to a 2017 paper published in the journal Energies, Li-S batteries at that time had a "typical cycle life", or the number of complete charges a battery can support before its capacity falls under 80%, that rarely exceeded 100 cycles. Dr. Mahdokt Shaibani from Monash University's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering led an worldwide research team to develop the new Li-S battery.

Commercialisation of the technology is expected, with interest in the patented manufacturing process coming from lithium battery manufacturers and prototype cells having been already constructed.

In theory, the battery could keep an electric vehicle running for more than 621 miles before needing to "refuel". It's unclear when or if this technology might make it into a Ford EV or EVs from other manufacturers. It's also very cheap to manufacture, relies on an abundant supply of material, and has less of an environmental impact.

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