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Scientists are developing a battery that can make a smartphone work for five days

Scientists have made what they think is the most efficient lithium-sulfur battery that can power a smartphone for five consecutive days.

The Australian developers say that the battery, which uses cheap sulfur in its electrodes, can also power an electric vehicle to drive more than 620 miles.

The responsible Australian researchers have applied for a patent for the technology, which in trade could perform more than four times better than leading battery producers.

Sulfur has great potential in battery technology due to its high energy density – lithium-sulfur batteries can store up to 10 times more energy than lithium-ion batteries.

But lithium-sulfur batteries lose their charging capacity drastically compared to the charging and discharging cycles, due to an increase in the volume of the electrode, causing it to fall apart.

The team has therefore created connections between sulfur particles to give them more room to expand and contract, making the battery last longer.

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Associate Professor Matthew Hill, Dr. Mahdokht Shaibani and Professor Mainak Majumder with the design of the lithium-sulfur battery

Associate Professor Matthew Hill, Dr. Mahdokht Shaibani and Professor Mainak Majumder with the design of the lithium-sulfur battery

The research marks an important step towards the full commercialization of lithium-sulfur batteries, which have great potential if scientists can overcome their instability during charging cycles.

The team now has the support of international partners to bring the technology to the market this year after more tests, giving power-guzzling smartphones the battery capacity of the legendary long-lasting Nokia 3310.

WHAT ARE LITHIUM-SULFUR BATTERIES?

Lithium sulfur batteries can provide an energy intensity that is five times higher than that of lithium ion batteries.

However, the commercialization of lithium sulfur has had many obstacles, including a short lifespan, low cyclical efficiency and poor safety.

The main challenges of lithium-sulfur batteries are the low conductivity of sulfur and the enormous volume change during charging.

This change in volume – as much as 78 percent – can lead to a gradual loss of cohesion of sulfur particles.

This may mean that it achieves lower charging capacities of lithium-ion batteries before the electrode just falls apart and the lithium-sulfur battery no longer works.

However, sulfur is very cheap and plentiful and has a relatively low atomic weight and a high energy density.

Lithium sulfur batteries may replace lithium ion batteries with a higher specific energy – or the energy per unit mass.

To produce lithium-sulfur batteries, scientists are replacing the lithium electrode – the piece of metal that carries the electrical current – of a lithium-ion battery with a combination of carbon and sulfur.

“Successful manufacturing and implementation of lithium-sulfur batteries in cars and grids will capture a larger share of the estimated $ 213 billion value chain of Australian lithium, and revolutionize the Australian vehicle market and provide all Australians with a cleaner and more reliable energy market,” said professor Mahdokht Shaibani of Monash University in Australia.

“Our research team has received more than $ 2.5 million from the government and international industrial partners from this year to test this battery technology in cars and grilles that we are most excited about.”

Lithium-sulfur batteries have less environmental impact than current lithium-ion products due to the use of water-based processes.

They can offer an energy intensity that is five times higher than that of lithium-ion batteries, which are often used for portable electronics and electric vehicles.

Sulfur is cheap, plentiful and often the by-product of many industrial processes, such as the processing of natural gas.

But the potential of the material in batteries still has to be fully realized.

The problem with lithium-sulfur batteries is that the capacity of the sulfur electrode – the piece of metal in the battery that carries the electric current – is so large that it disintegrates during several charging and discharging cycles.

Sulfur is cheap and plentiful because it is a by-product of many industrial processes, including

Sulfur is cheap and plentiful because it is a by-product of many industrial processes, including

Sulfur is cheap and plentiful because it is a by-product of many industrial processes, including

Lithium-sulfur batteries, once scaled up, can make an electric vehicle drive more than 620 miles without having to 'refuel' with more electricity

Lithium-sulfur batteries, once scaled up, can make an electric vehicle drive more than 620 miles without having to 'refuel' with more electricity

Lithium-sulfur batteries, once scaled up, can make an electric vehicle drive more than 620 miles without having to ‘refuel’ with more electricity

This is due to a volume change that occurs in a lithium-sulfur electrode that is about 78 percent – about eight times higher than that of electrodes in lithium-ion batteries, which causes the cohesion of particles to be lost and therefore the power to be lost.

The Monash team has reconfigured the design of sulfur cathodes so that they can handle higher stress loads without a decrease in capacity or performance.

To do this, they developed a method that creates connections between particles to absorb stress – giving them more room to expand and contract – and thus provide higher stability.

“This approach not only promotes high performance and longevity, but is also simple and extremely low cost to produce, using water-based processes, and can lead to significant reductions in environmental hazards,” said Professor Matthew Hill, co author of the research paper, published in Science is progressing.

Lithium-sulfur batteries and can lead to a reduction in hazardous waste compared to lithium-ion batteries (photo) used for cell phones

Lithium-sulfur batteries and can lead to a reduction in hazardous waste compared to lithium-ion batteries (photo) used for cell phones

Lithium-sulfur batteries and can lead to a reduction in hazardous waste compared to lithium-ion batteries (photo) used for cell phones

The team said their batteries could also be used in computers and solar panels.

Battery producers in Europe and China are interested in scaling up production after further testing, which is taking place in Australia this year.

The researchers have patented the patent approved by the technology and prototype cells have been successfully manufactured by the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology in Germany.

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