Lithium-sulfur batteries developed Down Under

Monash University

Thursday, 09 January, 2020

Lithium-sulfur batteries developed Down Under

Australian researchers are on the brink of commercialising what is claimed to be the world’s most efficient lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery, which could outperform current market leaders by more than four times and power Australia and other global markets well into the future.

Dr Mahdokht Shaibani from Monash University led an international research team that developed an ultrahigh-capacity Li-S battery which has better performance and less environmental impact than current lithium-ion products, with the capability to power a smartphone for five continuous days or enable an electric vehicle to drive more than 1000 km without needing to refuel. The team’s study has been published in the journal Science Advances.

Using the same materials as in standard lithium-ion batteries, the researchers reconfigured the design of sulfur cathodes so they could accommodate higher stress loads without a drop in overall capacity or performance. Inspired by bridging architecture first recorded in processing detergent powders in the 1970s, the team engineered a method that created bonds between particles to accommodate stress and deliver stability for more than 200 cycles — unprecedented in such thick cathodes, according to the study authors — with Coulombic efficiency above 99%.

Monash Professor Mainak Majumder, a corresponding author on the study, said the development is a breakthrough for Australian industry and could transform the way phones, cars, computers and solar grids are manufactured in the future.

“Successful fabrication and implementation of Li-S 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,” Prof Majumder said.

“Our research team has received more than $2.5 million in funding from government and international industry partners to trial this battery technology in cars and grids from this year, which we’re most excited about.”

Co-author Associate Professor Matthew Hill, also from Monash, said attractive performance, lower manufacturing costs, abundant supply of material, ease of processing and reduced environmental footprint make this new battery design attractive for future real-world applications.

“This approach not only favours high-performance metrics and long cycle life, but is also simple and extremely low-cost to manufacture, using water-based processes, and can lead to significant reductions in environmentally hazardous waste,” Assoc Prof Hill said.

The researchers have an approved filed patent for their manufacturing process, and prototype cells have been successfully fabricated by their German R&D partners at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS. Some of the world’s largest manufacturers of lithium batteries in China and Europe have already expressed interest in upscaling production, with further testing to take place in Australia in early 2020.

Top image shows Associate Professor Matthew Hill, Dr Mahdokht Shaibani and Professor Mainak Majumder with the lithium-sulfur battery design. All images courtesy of Dr Mahdokht Shaibani.

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