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All-solid lithium-sulfur battery stores four times the energy of lithium-ions

By Dario Borghino

June 7, 2013


Researchers are building an all-solid Li-S battery that is cheap, safe, durable, and stores four times the charge of conventional lithium-ion batteries (Photo: ORNL)

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Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have come up with a promising design for a lithium-sulfur rechargeable battery that is considerably cheaper and energy-dense than standard lithium-ions. Using a solid electrolyte rather than a liquid one, the battery is also testing much safer and more durable than previous designs.

Lithium-sulfur batteries are seen by some as the successors of lithium-ions because they are extremely light (they are often used for solar-powered flight), they can reach an impressive energy density, and they are cheaper to produce.

But the technology isn't quite mature yet, and as it turns out, the two major limitations with Li-S batteries have to do with the electrolyte. An electrolyte is a substance that, when mixed with a solvent, releases ions, making it electrically conductive. In batteries, electrolytes transport charge between the two electrodes, converting chemical energy into electrical energy.

In previous Li-S battery designs, the electrolyte used was liquid in nature. This proved a double-edged sword: the liquid electrolyte is an excellent conductor because of how it dissolves the lithium compounds, but this dissolution also causes the battery to break down prematurely. The liquid electrolyte is also flammable, posing serious safety concerns.

But now, researchers may have found a way around these problems.

"Our technology overcomes the capacity fade and safety issues of Li-S technology," Dr. Chengdu Liang, lead author of a paper on the research, told Gizmag. "The battery still performs well after a few hundred cycles, and the volumetric density could be slightly better than Li-ion batteries."


The researchers overcame these barriers by building a solid electrolyte made of lithium polysulfidophosphates (a new class of sulfur-rich materials with good electrical conductivity) to create an energy-dense, all-solid battery that is showing a lot of promise.

Even after 300 charge-discharge cycles at 60

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