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A Great Advance for Lithium Sulfur Batteries

Lithium Sulfur Batteries

Image credit: Monash University

A research group has developed technology that can give lithium-sulfur batteries four times as long. The breakthrough means that lithium-sulfur is now much closer to commercialization.

Compared to lithium-ion batteries, lithium-sulfur batteries have the potential to store 2-3 times as much energy per given weight.

Many consider the system to be one of the most promising replacements for lithium-ion batteries. Now the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas claims to have made a big step forward in the field.

The research team has found a way to stabilize one of the most challenging aspects of lithium-sulfur batteries. Lithium is very reactive and has a tendency to break down the surrounding substances. When charging and discharging, dendrites, plants, are formed on the lithium anode. The dendrites can interfere with the transport of lithium ions in the electrolyte and risk damaging the battery with short circuit and fire as the worst-case scenario.

However, by placing an artificial layer of tellurium on top of the lithium electrode, the deterioration in the electrolyte is stopped. This means that the battery can get four times as long, and thus lithium-sulfur has come much closer to commercialization.

The same technology can be used for other lithium- and salt-based batteries. However, there is a large supply of sulfur in that it is a residual product from the gas and oil industry.

The research group’s results have been published in the journal Joule.

What are Lithium-Sulfur Batteries?

Lithium-sulfur batteries, also known as Li–S battery are a type of rechargeable battery, notable for its high specific energy.

The battery has a low atomic weight of lithium and moderate weight of sulfur. This means that these batteries are quite light, with a density similar to water.

Lithium-sulfur batteries are considered potentially as more effective than lithium-ion batteries due to their higher energy density and reduced cost due to the use of sulfur. The specifications are much better than most lithium-ion batteries as their energy specification is about 500 Wh/kg, whereas most lithium-ion batteries are about 150–250 Wh/kg.

Lithium-sulfur batteries have demonstrated up to 1,500 charge and discharge cycles.

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