Smartphone batteries could last five days with lithium-sulphur design

A lithium-sulphur (Li-S) battery that could power a smartphone continuously for five days has been developed by researchers at Monash University.

The team believes it is also suitable for applications such as mass power storage and electric vehicles, with the latter potentially able to travel 1,000km without needing to recharge.

They said it is the most efficient Li-S battery there is and outperforms current market leaders by more than four times.

Li-S technology has been in development for years by different groups but has never been released commercially due to the low number of possible recharge cycles when compared to the lithium-ion batteries that are found in most devices today. Unfortunately, the design enables progressive leakage of active material from the cathode, quickly hampering its operation.

Dr Mahdokht Shaibani from Monash University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering believes his team has developed an ultra high-capacity Li-S battery that has better performance and less environmental impact than current lithium-ion products.

Using the same materials in standard lithium-ion batteries, the researchers reconfigured the design of sulphur cathodes so they could accommodate higher stress loads without a drop in overall capacity or performance.

Inspired by unique bridging architecture first recorded in processing detergent powders in the 1970s, the team engineered a method that created bonds between particles to accommodate stress and deliver a level of stability not seen in any battery to date.

Attractive performance, along with lower manufacturing costs, abundant supply of material, ease of processing and reduced environmental footprint make this new battery design attractive for future real-world applications, according to associate professor Matthew Hill.

“This approach not only favours high-performance metrics and long cycle life, but is also simple and extremely low-cost to manufacture, using water-based processes, and can lead to significant reductions in environmentally hazardous waste,” he said.

Some of the world’s largest manufacturers of lithium batteries in China and Europe have expressed interest in upscaling production, with further testing to take place in Australia in early 2020.

Professor Mainak Majumder said this development was a breakthrough for Australian industry and could transform the way phones, cars, computers and solar grids are manufactured in the future.

“Successful fabrication and implementation of Li-S batteries in cars and grids will capture a more significant part of the estimated $213bn value chain of Australian lithium and will revolutionise the Australian vehicle market and provide all Australians with a cleaner and more reliable energy market,” he said.

“Our research team has received more than $2.5m in funding from government and international industry partners to trial this battery technology in cars and grids from this year, which we’re most excited about.”

In November 2019, researchers demonstrated an electric vehicle battery that can give drivers 200 to 300 miles of range from just a 10-minute charge.

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