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Solid Lithium-Sulfur Battery Offers 4X the Energy Density of Li-Ion

A new type of battery that has four times the energy density of current lithium-ion batteries, yet uses a low-cost material, has been developed and tested at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The development of this new all-solid lithium-sulfur battery could lead to lower costs for energy storage, safer batteries, and increased energy density, and may lead to a sea change in mobile power for everything from portable gadgets to electric vehicles.

Previous approaches to lithium-sulfur batteries were plagued by their use of a liquid electrolyte in the design, which caused premature failure in the devices. But by synthesizing new types of sulfur-rich components, the team at ORNL was able to overcome that challenge in their device, and at the same time, take advantage of low-cost, abundant sulfur, which is considered a waste product in many industries.

“This game-changing shift from liquid to solid electrolytes eliminates the problem of sulfur dissolution and enables us to deliver on the promise of lithium-sulfur batteries. Our battery design has real potential to reduce cost, increase energy density and improve safety compared with existing lithium-ion technologies.” – Chengdu Liang, ORNL

Testing of the new battery showed an eight-fold increase in capacity over current lithium-ion versions, which translates into an increase in energy density in the lithium-sulfur models by a factor of four. The solid design of the battery also serves to make them safer than other designs, as no flammable liquid electrolytes are present that could react with the lithium.

“Sulfur is practically free. Not only does sulfur store much more energy than the transition metal compounds used in lithium-ion battery cathodes, but a lithium-sulfur device could help recycle a waste product into a useful technology.” Liang

The new battery design is still in the demo stage, but further research by the team could eventually lead to a production version.

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