Battery Technology Beats Lithium-Ion

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted June 7, 2013

There is a lot of research being done to create the ultimate battery, but that end-all be-all in battery technology still eludes us.

The goal: create a battery that will hold a charge longer than the lithium-ion battery used today but also provide an affordable price to consumers.

lithium-sulfur battery
Source: Oak Ridge Today

The idea is simple enough, but the science behind it proves tricky. There have been breakthroughs, but nothing that is ready to hit the masses.

But a research team of scientists, led by Chengdu Liang at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), have developed an all-solid lithium-sulfur battery that the team claims will hold a charge lasting four times longer than the conventional lithium-ion battery of today. And the kicker – it’s cheap, too!

If this holds true, our electronics of tomorrow could use this battery.

The ORNL battery uses the low-costing element of sulfur to make the potential of this battery stand out. It also addresses flammability concerns that have hampered other chemistries, as Oak Ridge Today reports.

It’s not the first foray into lithium-sulfur batteries, but results in the past always fizzled out because of the use of liquid electrolytes. Not this time! The ORNL battery also consists of a solid electrolyte that is unique to this battery’s design and prevents it from breaking down prematurely.

Lithium-Sulfur Battery Design

Past attempts at lithium-sulfur batteries using liquid electrolytes were great because the liquid aided in the conduction of ions. But this also caused the battery to quickly break down. Nobody wants to constantly replace batteries.

And this is where everything changes.

The team at ORNL started first with a brand spanking new class of sulfur-rich materials that weren’t being used anywhere else. These materials conduct just as well as the lithium metal oxides used in a conventional lithium-ion battery’s cathode.

The next step was to combine the new sulfur-rich cathode with a lithium anode that had a solid electrolyte.

Chengdu Liang said in Oak Ridge Today:

“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,” Liang said. “Our battery design has real potential to reduce cost, increase energy density, and improve safety compared with existing lithium-ion technologies.”

How Much Change?

We’ve been using the same battery for 200 years now, believe it or not. It works! And nobody has been able to come up with anything better, despite many failed attempts by some of the brightest minds in science. It is two electrodes joined by a liquid electrolyte. Simple.

With its changes, the new ORNL battery can maintain a capacity of 1,200 milliamp-hours (mAh) per gram after 300 charge-discharge cycles of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), Oak Ridge Today notes. The lithium-ion battery we all use today has a capacity of roughly 150 mAh/g.

The ORNL battery only delivers about half the voltage of the lithium-ion battery. The eight-fold increase in capacity demonstrated by the ORNL battery cathode is what allows it to last four times longer.

And with the all-solid design of the ORNL battery, it makes it safer by eliminating the risk of flammability that can occur when the liquid electrolyte reacts with lithium metal.

And there’s certainly no shortage of sulfur, the main compound used to create this new battery. It costs practically nothing as a byproduct of petroleum processing.

What’s Next?

With the low cost of sulfur the next step for the ORNL battery is to see commercial success.

It would have a tremendous impact on renewable energy sources like wind and solar, which would use it for energy storage. The industry would scoop it up by the droves.

A significantly improved battery would also change the face of the electric vehicle (EV) market. The battery is the one current drawback for most consumers when considering an EV. In addition to a better battery life, it also has a weight advantage that would be more than suitable for the EV market currently holding a battery that is very heavy.

So together, an EV would not only weigh less and perform better, but it would cost less, too.

And as for electronics devices, it seems that the growing trend is already toward smaller, more lightweight devices. And now – with a battery that also lasts four times longer – the ORNL lithium-sulfur battery would be a smoking hot commodity.

A patent on the team’s design is pending.


If you liked this article, you may also enjoy:

Angel Publishing Investor Club Discord - Chat Now

Brian Hicks Premium


Hydrogen Fuel Cells: The Downfall of Tesla?

Lithium has been the front-runner in the battery technology market for years, but that is all coming to an end. Elon Musk is against them, but Jeff Bezos is investing heavily in them. Hydrogen Fuel Cells will turn the battery market upside down and we've discovered a tiny company that is going to make it happen...

Sign up to receive your free report. After signing up, you'll begin receiving the Energy and Capital e-letter daily.