Engineers are charging forward with the development of a new environmentally safe high-powered lithium-sulfur substitute which could drastically lengthen the life of your batteries.
The team, from the University of Texas, have just published their work in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Common lithium-ion batteries only have a certain capacity… most people want to use their phones for a longer time. Dr. Kyeongjae Cho – Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
Most batteries used in consumer products are based on lithium-ion technology. Currently, a battery charge typically last around one day for a modern mobile. However, the new tech promises charges that could last a week or more.
The team focused on improving the life of an old technology – the lithium-sulfur battery.
Lithium-sulfur is a technology that has long been considered dead, but it offers a few big advantages over current lithium-ion tech.
Lithium-sulfur batteries not only cost less to manufacture but each battery has a capacity of about three to five times higher than its lithium-ion equivalent and weigh half the amount. Best of all – they are much better for the environment.
Imagine your current phone lasts one day; the team believe that this new tech could stretch your charge time to three to five days.
However, there are reasons why lithium-sulfur batteries have not broken into the mainstream.
Sulfur is a notoriously bad electrical conductor. Worse still, it can become unstable over multiple charge cycles and the electrodes that make up the battery can break down.
Fixing the Lithium-sulfur battery – Molybdenum
The team had to rethink the structure of the lithium-sulfur battery to make it viable for mainstream use.
Initially, they rethought the structure of the battery by placing lithium metal on one electrode and sulfur on the other. However, lithium by itself was too unstable and the sulfur acted as an insulator.
Their solution was to create a sulfur-carbon nanotube substance.
The new sulfur-carbon nanotube substance created more conductivity on the sulfur electrode while making the lithium end more stable.
The teams breakthrough came when they used molybdenum (typically used to harden steel) in their substance.
The molybdenum acted as a protective layer. It combined with two atoms of sulfur creating a microscopically thin coating which compensated for the weakness of sulfur as a conductor and allowed a much greater power density for the battery.
The team of material engineers hope that this breakthrough in battery tech could change the way we use batteries. They are now working on fully stabilizing the new material before moving towards a commercially viable product.