Manufacturing News from the Engineered Designer Perspective

New super batteries could change electric vehicle industry

A pair of breakthroughs in lithium-ion battery technology could have long-range effects for consumers and industry. At the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), scientists have designed and tested an energy-dense, all solid lithium-sulfur battery that has four times the energy density of conventional lithium-ion batteries. According to Chengdu Liang of ORNL, the lithium-sulfur battery has the potential “to reduce cost, increase energy density and improve safety compared with existing lithium-ion technologies.”

Chengdu Liang, one of the researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with the sulfur compound used in their lithium-sulfur all-solid battery. The breakthrough gives the battery four times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, he says.

Rather than using a liquid electrolyte as has been the norm in batteries for about two centuries, the Oak Ridges group uses a new sulfur compound in the battery’s cathode instead. To do so, the team had to synthesize a “never-before-seen” class of sulfur materials that conduct ions as well as the lithium metal oxides used in conventional batteries.

The shift from liquid to solid is being called “game changing” by the researchers at ORNL as it “eliminates the problem of sulfur dissolution.” Liquid electrolytes have been used in previous attempts to create lithium-sulfur batteries because of their ability to conduct ions. It was the dissolution of the lithium polysulfide compounds used in these batteries that allowed the conduction of ions. However, the dissolution also led to the batteries’ rapid break down.

With the ionically-conductive cathode, the ORNL battery maintained a capacity of 1200 milliamp-hours (mAh) per gram after 300 charge-discharge cycles at 60 degrees Celsius. A traditional lithium-ion battery cathode has an average capacity of 140–170 mAh/g. Accounting for the fact that lithium-sulfur batteries deliver half the voltage of lithium-ion versions, the eight-fold increase in capacity translates into four times the energy density of lithium-ion technologies.

The all-solid design also increases battery safety by eliminating flammable liquid electrolytes that can react with lithium metal. The ORNL battery’s use of elemental sulfur, a plentiful industrial byproduct of petroleum processing, is another significant advantage.

“Sulfur is practically free,” Liang said. “Not only does sulfur store much more energy than the transition metal compounds used in lithium-ion battery cathodes, but a lithium-sulfur device could help recycle a waste product into a useful technology.”

A patent on the ORNL sulfur battery design is pending.

And in Germany, scientists at the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Wurttemburg (ZSW) have developed super-efficient lithium-ion batteries with great potential for energy storage systems. In an electric vehicle they’re expected to retain 85 per cent of their capacity after being charged every day for “about 27.4 years.”

Super-efficient lithium-ion batteries are being developed in Germany. In an electric vehicle they are expected to retain 85 per cent of their initial capacity after 10,000 complete charge-discharge cycles, approximately 27.4 years.

A press release from ZSW says that after 10,000 complete charging and discharging cycles, with a complete charge and discharge cycle per hour, the lithium-ion batteries retain more than 85 per cent of the initial capacity. This means that an electric car with those batteries could be fully charged every day for about 27.4 years and still be going strong. The power density of these batteries, which measures the available power per unit of weight, is also very high at 1,100 watts per kilogram. For an electric vehicle, this means short charging times and a superior acceleration capability.

More Great Stories
Canadian Solar to supply solar mega-projects in Ontario and Turkey
Canadian Solar Inc. of Guelph, Ontario announced today that it has signed a deal to supply 12.6MW of [more]
Toyota Canada top producer for first time in 2015; RAV4 on a roar
Canada set a new record for car sales in 2015, with nearly 1.9 million vehicles sold. According [more]
Overheated bearings, gearboxes among causes of wind turbine fires
Wind turbines often catch fire and burn much more frequently than is reported, a study from the UK a [more]
Audit pans government’s climate change progress
An audit of the three federal entities that are supposed to be working to reduce Canada’s greenhou [more]
Government wants to know what chemicals are used in fracking
Whether hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, causes earthquakes or pollutes groundwater is still being [more]
Final testing of Bombardier’s C Series to begin
Bombardier said today that its new CS100 aircraft is in the final stages of certification, havin [more]

Other Popular News and Stories

  • Armoured vehicles an important niche in Ontario's auto industry
  • Infrastructure in focus at Queen's Park as new legislation tabled
  • Canadian Solar could earn $2.3 billion through acquisition of Recurrent Energy
  • Organic, water-based battery a game-changer for renewable energy
  • Move to autonomous cars gains momentum with CES announcements, more expected from Detroit auto show
  • Oilsands companies hope to innovate cleaner, more profitable future
  • Fracking study finds methane emissions lower than EPA estimates
  • World's oil suppliers in for a shock: IEA
  • NASA says human Mars landing is feasible by 2030s
  • California mandates energy storage to bring more renewables into grid
  • Irving Shipbuilding wins $2.3 billion icebreaker contract with navy
  • Scientists create liquid fuel from solar energy
  • Helicopter flight simulator to train offshore rig pilots in Newfoundland
  • Number of reported pipeline spills in Canada doubled over ten years
  • Promise of more investment in auto industry but no specifics
  • Agreement between western provinces smooths way for pipelines
  • Samsung wind farm breaks ground in SW Ontario
  • Researchers claim micro-fluidics breakthrough with liquid metal pump
  • Economy showed mix of strength (exports), weakness (investment) in Q3
  • Canada-France space agencies test stratosphere balloon in Ontario