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.”

lithium-sulfur-battery-Oak-Ridge-National-Laboratory-Liang-electrolyte-solid-sulfur-EDIWeekly
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.”

ZSW-lithium-ion-batteries-Germany-efficient-EDIWeekly
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
Ford looking to use agave plant biomass to make green plastic for cars
Normally, when the plant has been used for its commercial purpose of making tequila, the substan [more]
SWISS inaugurates commercial flights of Bombardier’s CS100
Bombardier may not have taken any new orders for its C Series jets at the Farnborough Internatio [more]
Hopes high for Bombardier CSeries breakthrough at Farnborough Airshow
Bombardier’s CS100 aircraft is set to be one of the “stars” of this year’s Farnborough a [more]
Artificial pancreas would reduce need for self-care by diabetics, improve insulin delivery
Type 1 diabetes sufferers face peculiarly onerous daily demands to maintain their health. They m [more]
Modest business growth forecast as manufacturing slows in June
A drop in orders for new manufactured goods, coinciding with the suspension of production activi [more]
NA clean energy goal of 50 per cent can’t be met without nuclear, industry says
The operator of the world’s largest nuclear power generating facility, Bruce Power, said it ap [more]

Other Popular News and Stories

  • GM/Honda latest partners in search for affordable fuel cell car
  • TransCanada's Energy East pipeline has building trades support
  • More R&D, innovation not free trade deals needed to boost Canada's exports: economist
  • Demand for industrial real estate soaring in Canada: report
  • Bill Gates betting we can invent our way to a clean energy world
  • Transit groups call Ontario budget a step in the right direction
  • IKEA buys Alberta wind farm
  • FirstEnergy of Calgary to host ninth London Global Energy Conference
  • Shortage of skilled labour facing Ontario construction industry: report
  • Handheld device detects bacteria on food in real time
  • National Energy Board not doing enough to ensure pipeline safety: report
  • Higher efficiency solar cells within reach
  • Short list announced for Green Car of the Year
  • Ontario economy set to grow based on exports, weaker dollar
  • Armoured vehicles an important niche in Ontario's auto industry
  • Q1 Canadian corporate profits up, led by oil and gas
  • Worker mobility key to construction's labour shortage
  • Large CSeries order builds momentum for Bombardier
  • Bombardier nearly ready to flight test CSeries
  • Large Ontario wind power project gets go-ahead, now hiring