In the quest for longer-lasting lithium rechargeable batteries, some researchers are looking to use sulfur as electrodes.
The chemistry of lithium-sulfur, in theory, could allow electric vehicles to go twice as far as conventional batteries. But, in practice, unwanted chemical reactions clog the electrodes quickly, meaning a short lifespan for the batteries as their ability to hold a charge fades.
Now, researchers have gotten the best look yet at what’s going on when a lithium-sulfur battery is charging and discharging. First they had to adapt a laboratory instrument to trap the products of the unwanted chemical reactions. But then the team saw how the components of the batteries — electrodes and the liquid electrolytes that help create the electric current — interact and form an interfering layer on the electrodes.
Understanding how the layer builds up might help scientists solve the lithium-sulfur fading problem, which could lead to more affordable batteries. “Sulfur is significantly cheaper than current cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries,” said researcher Vijay Murugesan of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “So the total cost of a lithium-sulfur battery will be low.”
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