Sulfur-Based Battery Outperforms Lithium-Ion in Tests

An all-solid lithium-sulfur battery developed by an Oak Ridge National Laboratory team led by ChengduLiang could reduce costs, increase performance, and improve safetyover designs that primarily use lithium-ion chemistries.(Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
An all-solid lithium-sulfur battery developed by an Oak Ridge National Laboratory team led by Chengdu
Liang could reduce costs, increase performance, and improve safety
over designs that primarily use lithium-ion chemistries.
(Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

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Rob Spiegel
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Perhaps promising
Rob Spiegel   6/17/2013 9:05:36 AM
This looks promising, Elizabeth, even if it is in its infancy. The whole EV world is in its infancy, so now we add another altewrnativew to lithium-ion. That can only be good.

TJ McDermott
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Then and Now
TJ McDermott   6/17/2013 10:07:38 AM
Elizabeth's article gives me a lot of hope for a revolution in electrical storage.  But I wonder from where the innovation comes.

Oak Ridge is a government lab.  A century ago, such inventions and research did not come from the government.  It came from individuals such as Edison, Tesla, The Wrights, etc. or non-government companies.

Edison and his Menlo Park group looked at thousands of materials in the search for one suitable in an electric light bulb.

The quest for better electrical storage seems like a retelling of light-bulb filaments - find the right chemistry and electrify the world.

THe current state of patent law might have something to do with this state of affairs.


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Gadget developers
AnandY   6/17/2013 10:22:00 AM
They say their all-solid lithium-sulfur battery offers four times the energy density of conventional lithium-ion technologies.

@Elizabeth, thanks for the post. Energy density four times higher menas that present smartphone's lithium-ion battery giving eight hours of use will give 32 hours if lithium-sulfur battery is used. 

Then this will be a good news for gadget developers. With longer battery cycle, gadget developers will come up with more powerful gadgets, making them more power hungry. We will still struggle with eight hours battery.

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Re: Perhaps promising
naperlou   6/17/2013 11:47:42 AM
Rob, as you say, this is in it's infancy.  It took six years to get to this point.  There are still many aspects to be researched as well.  I wouldn't look for it too soon.

This is a very good illustration of the problems faced by electric vehicle manufacturers.  There are lots of technologies being researched (a good thing), but not many that will be ready soon for manufacture.  That is too bad in this case, since sulfur is very abundant.  It is not only available as a byproduct of chemical processes, but coal fired plants produce massive amounts.  This is generally hauled away and stuffed in old coal pits.

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60 C
56ml   6/17/2013 12:33:42 PM
I wonder about the statement that the battery can be cycled 300 times at 60 C.  Perhaps this suggest tht the battery has to be operated at elevated temperatures, which makes sense since solid state materials often conduct much better when hotter.  This would mean the battery would only be good on big things used constantly, such as delivery trucks or buses or things that can have good surrounding insulation.  For personal cars, having to keep the battery hot means burning energy, which likely offsets any potential efficiency gains.  Forget the cellphone.  You would not want 60 C next to your ear or having so much insulation to keep the heat in that the phone would no longer be portable.

Charles Murray
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Very good cycle life
Charles Murray   6/17/2013 6:22:19 PM
The numbers here are in line with what we've seen the past, except for the cycle life, which is much better. I know researchers who are getting 100-200 cycles on lithium-sulfur, and even that is very good. Three hundred cycles -- which is what they're getting here -- is off the charts. The theoretical max energy capacity of lithium-sulfur is about 1,675 Ah/kg. If you can get 75% of that, you're doing great. The timeline for development of batteries like these is estimated to be about 20 years, and most of the people who I've talked to say we're about five years into that timeline.

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Re: Then and Now
patb2009   6/17/2013 10:56:10 PM
"  A century ago, such inventions and research did not come from the government.  It came from individuals such as Edison, Tesla, The Wrights, etc. or non-government companies."


I would prefer basic technology come from government labs, they can then publish and industry can work on products.  

that lets basic technology patents belong to the taxpayers while industry has detailed design patents.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Perhaps promising
Elizabeth M   6/18/2013 5:02:30 AM
Yes, it does look promising, and there seem to be some great minds at work here, Rob. I hate to say that researchers seem to be "throwing things at the wall to see what sticks" when it comes to battery altneratives, but there do seem to be a lot of new options they are working on. But that's a good thing! The only way to come up with a new viable alternative to Li is to keep experimenting. I suppose we'll see what sticks in due time.

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Re: Then and Now
3drob   6/18/2013 8:50:29 AM
TJ- I would disagree that patent law has much to do with the rise of government's importance in basic research.  I would surmise that several other factors play into this with more importance. 

One factor is that most (if not all) the low lying fruit has already been discovered (if it was easy, it's been done).  Back in the Bose/Edison/Tesla days, you could (had to) make your own devices (electronic components were all hand made including vacuum tubes and diodes).  Anybody with intelligence and time could tinker with the most exotic (then) technologies. 

Another factor is that outside of the orient, the bean counters and business majors running our corporations these days don't see past 6 months, much less 5 years, much less the decade or two it will take to commercialize new, advanced technology.  In the Orient, lack of concern over large monopolies, tax laws tuned to long term results, and government subsidies for commercial development make sure that their basic research and development is well funded.  Even Europe is more tuned in to the long term (ask yourself; who owns Bell Labs right now?)

This development is a ray of hope that there are better solutions in development for energy storage and that these solutions may not depend on exotic materials controlled by only a few (potentially hostile) nations.

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Re: Perhaps promising
Jim_E   6/18/2013 8:53:52 AM
Great to see advances made in battery technology, even if it is just preliminary, research stage work.  We definitely need more effecient energy storage.  

I just read about the facility in Germany that is using "green" electricity to break down water into Hydrogen which is then injected into existing natural gas lines.  They say that the natural gas absorbs the Hydrogen.

Has anyone tried the bamboo / coconut formulated battery like the professor did on Gilligan's Island?  ;) ;) ;)


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