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Newly Discovered Sulfur Use Can Triple Battery Capacity for EVs

Will lithium-sulfur batteries solve all our fully electric transport problems? Not yet. But this new finding helps us better understand how to harness more energy without adding more weight, and may provide a key for sustainable battery making.
New Sulfur Use for better batteries 7 photos
New sulfur EV battery discoveryNew sulfur EV battery discoveryNew sulfur EV battery discoveryNew sulfur EV battery discoveryNew sulfur EV battery discoveryNew sulfur EV battery discovery
Global electrical vehicle (EV) sales have increased dramatically. Getting the raw materials needed for batteries has, naturally, become a more competitive affair. These resources are limited, and prices haven’t dropped yet, and carmakers don’t want to be liable for destroying the environment in one part of the world to have clean air on the other side.

Clearly, a change is much needed.

Until now, sulfur has encountered a problem with the carbonate electrolyte used in batteries for EVs. But researchers found a way to stabilize a form of sulfur in a cathode. Without diving into the details, this means that by adding sulfur in batteries, companies will manage to expand their capacity, extend lifespan, and provide a sustainable alternative to current cathode materials like cobalt, nickel, and manganese.

The only problem was chemical compounds called polysulfides, which got into the electrolyte and compromised the battery. But researchers now seem to have solved this with the new cathode that is made from carbon nanofibers that confine sulfur. After a year of continuous testing, the battery as a whole worked at maximum capacity as on the first day! This is a different solution from the one presented by the researchers at the University of Michigan.

This new discovery has been made at the Drexel College of Engineering. If proved reliable, this "would not only make sulfur batteries commercially viable, but they would have three times the capacity of Li-ion batteries and last more than 4.000 recharges – the equivalent of 10 years of use." Currently, manufacturers offer about eight years of warranty for their new EVs.

Researchers are still trying to properly understand how the sulfur cathode has remained stable at room temperature, but the discovery is an exciting one. We might soon get batteries that are cheaper to make and don’t have a devastating environmental impact.

Editor's note: Gallery shows abstract pictures of batteries and battery chemistry.


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