The research team of professor Linda Nazar, graduate student David Xiulei Ji and postdoctoral fellow Kyu Tae Lee are one of the first to demonstrate robust electrochemical performance for a lithium-sulphur battery. The finding is reported today in the on-line issue of Nature Materials.
The prospect of lithium-sulphur batteries has tantalized chemists for two decades, and not just because successfully combining the two chemistries delivers much higher energy densities. Sulphur is cheaper than many other materials currently used in lithium batteries.
It has always showed great promise as the ideal partner for a safe, low cost, long lasting rechargeable battery, exactly the kind of battery needed for energy storage and transportation in a low carbon emission energy economy.
"The difficult challenge was always the cathode, the part of the battery that stores and releases electrons in the charge and recharge cycles," said Dr. Nazar. "To enable a reversible electrochemical reaction at high current rates, the electrically-active sulphur needs to remain in the most intimate contact with a conductor, such as carbon."
The Canadian research team leap-frogged the performance of other carbon-sulphur combinations by tackling the contact issue at the nanoscale level. Although they say the same approach could be used with other materials, for their proof of concept study they chose a member of a highly structured and porous carbon family called mesoporous carbon. At the nanoscale level, this type of carbon has a very uniform pore diameter and pore volume.
Using a nanocasting method, the team assembled a structure of 6.5 nanometre thick carbon rods separated by empty three to four nanometre wide channels. Carbon microfibres spanning the empty channels kept the voids open and prevented collapse of the architecture.
Filling the tiny voids proved simple. Sulphur was heated and melted. Once in contact with the carbon, it was drawn or imbibed into the channels by capillary forces, where it solidified and shrunk to form sulphur nanofibres. Scanning electron microscope sections revealed that all the spaces were uniformly filled with sulphur, exposing an enormous surface area of the active element to carbon and driving the exceptional test results of the new battery.
"This composite material can supply up to nearly 80 percent of the theoretical capacity of sulphur, which is three times the energy density of lithium transition metal oxide cathodes, at reasonable rates with good cycling stability," said Dr. Nazar.
What is more, the researchers say, the high capacity of the carbon to incorporate active material opens the door for similar "imbibed" composites that could have applications in many areas of materials science.
The research team continues to study the material to work out remaining challenges and refine the cathode's architecture and performance.
Dr. Nazar said a patent has been filed, and she is reviewing options for commercialization and practical applications.
Contact:Linda Nazar, Canada Research Chair, University of Waterloo
Further reports about: > battery > Canadian Light Source > Carbon microfibres > Lithium Ion Batteries > Sulphur > electrically-active sulphur > electrochemical reaction > lithium batteries > lithium battery technology > lithium-sulphur battery > low carbon emission energy economy > mesoporous carbon > metal oxide cathodes
Neutrons pave the way to accelerated production of lithium-ion cells
20.03.2018 | Technische Universität München
Monocrystalline silicon thin film for cost-cutting solar cells with 10-times faster growth rate fabricated
16.03.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...
The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences