New Sulfur-Based Battery Technology to Offer Four Times the Energy of Lithium Ion

Researchers are still searching for the Holy Grail in battery technology that will ultimately hold a charge for much longer than what's currently available and be affordable to the masses. One that has promise is a new all-solid lithium-sulfur battery developed by scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The research team, led by Chengdu Liang, claims the lithium-sulfur battery has around four times the energy density of conventional lithium-ion technologies found in today's devices, and it's pretty cheap to boot.

"Our approach is a complete change from the current battery concept of two electrodes joined by a liquid electrolyte, which has been used over the last 150 to 200 years," said Chengdu Liang, lead author on the ORNL study published this week in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Lithium-sulfur battery

This isn't the first time researchers have played around with lithium-sulfur batteries, though past attempts have been stymied because of the use of liquid electrolytes, which ultimately caused the battery to break down prematurely.

"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."

Another upside is that of cost. Liang points out that "sulfur is practically free," which will make it easier to transition the technology from its current demonstration stage into a commercial application.