WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
As the world tries to move away from fossil fuels we’re seeing an explosion in the number of new battery and energy innovations like this one.
Researchers have developed a new battery. Yes, yet another new battery to join the frankly overwhelming number of new battery technologies I’ve been following that include 3D printed Lithium-Ion batteries, Bio-batteries, Liquid batteries, Lithium-Calcium batteries, Lithium-Metal batteries, Nuclear batteries, polymers, Structural batteries, and many many more, and they claim that their new battery can power a phone for five continuous days, or allow an electric vehicle to travel more than 1,000km without needing to recharge. And that sounds awesome, until I regail you of the boring story of how mechanical batteries could take that range to 16,000km… but that’s another story.
Anyway, back to the story. The “ground breaking energy storage solution” courtesy of researchers at Monash University in Australia is made possible by ditching Lithium-Ion batteries (LiON), that are used in everything from iPhones to pacemakers, and replacing them with Lithium-Sulfur batteries (LiS).
Theoretically, LiS batteries are capable of holding up to five times more energy than LiON ones, but until now they have been wildly impractical for use in consumer electronics.
The biggest challenge until now with LiS batteries has been the instability of the cathode, which undergoes a 78 per cent change in size each time it goes through a charge cycle. This means the batteries degrade extremely quickly and do not last long enough for them to be recharged over and over again.
To overcome this the researchers discovered that using a very flexible cathode allowed it to handle the expansion and contraction without significant degradation. In doing so, they claim to have created the “world’s most efficient” LiS battery – awesome, another battery.
“The world needs radical new energy storage technologies to fight climate change,” said Dr Mahdokht Shaibani from Monash University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, who led the research.
“Lithium-sulfur batteries, which use extremely high-capacity sulfur, can store five times as much capacity as traditional lithium-ion batteries, and are made from cheap materials that are available worldwide.”
Associate Professor Matthew Hill added: “This approach not only favours high performance metrics and long life cycle… it is also can lead to significant reductions in environmentally hazardous waste.”
The research, which is published in Science Advances, could be a major milestone for the battery industry and could impact everything from consumer electronics to solar grids.
Dr Shaibani said the commercialisation of the batteries may be between two to four years away, and a patent for the manufacturing process has already been approved.
Prototype cells have been developed in Germany and further testing in cars and solar grids, where they could be used for grid scale storage to support the growth of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, is set to take place in Australia this year.
“Cost projections and performance metrics of our technology predicts for outperforming today’s lithium-ion batteries at high competitive price points,” said Dr Shaibani.
“Altogether, this means that solar power could be much more easily stored, or an electric vehicle go a lot further, but more importantly, the battery is safe, simple and ethical.”