Researchers at Australia's Monash University are on the brink of commercializing what they deem as the most efficient lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery available, which could outperform competitive leading battery technologies. The research team, led by Dr. Mahdokht Shaibani from Monash University's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, have an approved filed patent (PCT/AU 2019/051239) for their manufacturing process. Prototype cells have been successfully fabricated by German R&D partners Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology.
According to an article on the Monash University website, several 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. The study was published in Science Advances.
Monash University 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 $213 billion value chain of Australian lithium, and will revolutionize the Australian vehicle market and provide all Australians with a cleaner and more reliable energy market," Professor Majumder said.
"Our research team has received more than $2.5 million 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."
Using the same materials in standard lithium-ion batteries, researchers reconfigured the design of sulphur cathodes so they could accommodate higher stress loads without a drop in overall capacity or performance.
The researchers leveraged a unique bridging architecture, first recorded in processing detergent powders in the 1970s, to develop a method that created bonds between particles to accommodate stress and deliver a level of stability not seen in any battery to date.
The scientists believe the lithium-sulfur battery technology’s combination of high performance, along with lower manufacturing costs, abundant material supply, 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 favors 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," Hill said.