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Discovery sweetens the opportunity for lithium-sulfur commercialisation

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 14:06 -- Paul Crompton

Scientists at an Australian university have stabilised lithium-sulfur batteries by using sugar on its positive electrode.

A team from the Monash Energy Institute— a cross faculty initiative at the the Monash University— used a glucose-based additive on the positive electrode to create a sustainable rival to lithium-ion batteries.

Test coin-cell prototypes constructed by the team retained 60% capacity after 1,000 cycles.

The team's pouch-cell prototypes reported in their manuscript were 3cm x 5cm, with an overall capacity of ~ 04-0.5Ah. Its recent pouches exceed the ones reported in the article and are ~ 1Ah.

The research by the Monash team, assisted by Australian government agency The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, was published in the scientific journal Nature Communications

Professor Mainak Majumder, associate director of the Monash Energy Institute, said that in less than a decade the technology could lead to vehicles travelling more than 800km without recharging. 

In theory, lithium-sulfur batteries can store up to five times more specific energy than lithium-ion batteries—  but the electrodes deteriorate rapidly because the positive sulfur electrode weakens due to substantial expansion and contraction causing the negative lithium electrode to become contaminated by sulfur compounds.

Last year, the Monash team opened the structure of the sulfur electrode to accommodate expansion and make it more accessible to lithium. 

Now, by incorporating sugar into the web-like architecture of the electrode they have stabilised the sulfur, preventing it from moving and blanketing the lithium electrode.

First author and PhD student Yingyi Huang and her colleagues were inspired by a 1988 geochemistry report that described how sugar-based substances resist degradations in geological sediments by forming strong bonds with sulfides.

Dr Mahdokht Shaibani, second author and Monash researcher, said: “While many of the challenges on the cathode side of the battery has been solved by our team, there is still need for further innovation into the protection of the lithium metal anode to enable large-scale uptake of this promising technology – innovations that may be right around the corner.”

The process was developed by the Monash team with significant contribution from Dr Matthew Hill’s research group in CSIRO Manufacturing.

Energy research and innovation company Enserv Australia hopes to develop and manufacture the batteries in Australia.

A spokesmn for Monash told BEST: "Certain aspects have been licensed to Enserv Australia. Whilst it has been an absolute delight to work with Enserv group,  currently, our engagement with Enserv  on this battery technology has been completed.  We are looking forward to working with new venture partners to take the technology forward. It is our expectation that advanced prototypes will supercede the current technology at our disposal

Mark Gustowski, managing director of Enserv Australia, said his firm would look to use the technology to enter the electric vehicles and electronic devices market. 

He said: “We plan to make the first lithium-sulfur batteries in Australia using Australian lithium within about five years.”

New salts for lithium-ion

Scientists at the Monash University School of Chemistry in Australia have developed an alternative to hexafluorophosphate salt for lithium-ion battery electrolytes.

The electrolyte was developed under the leadership of professor Doug MacFarlane and Dr Mega Kar alongside battery developer Calix.

The synthesised battery grade fluoroborate salt, made using a recrystallisation process, was found to be stable even when exposed to air. 

When used in a battery with lithium-manganese-oxide cathodes, the cell achieved more than 1,000 cycles, even after atmospheric exposure, reported the team.

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Janus graphene opens doors for sodium-ion batteries to usurp lithium-ion

Thu, 09/16/2021 - 15:53 -- Paul Crompton

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have pushed the performance of electrode material for sodium batteries so it matches lithium-ion batteries.

Using a novel graphene, the team at the Swedish institute reported the specific capacity for sodium ions was 332 milliampere-hours-per-gram— almost ten times that of the capacity of sodium intercalation in standard graphite.

The article “Real-time imaging of Na+ reversible intercalation in “Janus” graphene stacks for battery applications” was published in the journal Science Advances. 

Sodium ions are larger than lithium ions and interact differently, which means they cannot be efficiently stored in the graphite structure— unlike lithium-ion cells where the graphite anode allows better ion intercalation.

Chalmers’ research uses Janus graphene (named after the two-faced ancient Roman God Janus) due to its asymmetric chemical functionalisation on opposite faces of the graphene.

The upper face of each Janus graphene sheet has a molecule that acts as both spacer and active interaction site for the sodium ions. 

Each molecule, in between two stacked graphene sheets, is connected by a covalent bond to the lower graphene sheet and interacts through electrostatic interactions with the upper graphene sheet. 

The graphene layers also have uniform pore size, controllable functionalisation density, and few edges.

Jinhua Sun, from the Department of Industrial and Materials Science at Chalmers and first author of the scientific paper, said by adding the molecule spacer  when the layers were stacked together, the molecule creates a larger space between graphene sheets and provides an interaction point— which leads to a significantly higher capacity.

Vincenzo Palermo, affiliated professor at the Department of Industrial and Materials Science at Chalmers, said: “Our Janus material is still far from industrial applications, but the new results show that we can engineer the ultrathin graphene sheets— and the tiny space in between them— for high-capacity energy storage.”

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Researchers combine tomography methods to investigate lithium-ion battery failure modes

Wed, 02/12/2020 - 10:14 -- Paul Crompton

An international team of researchers have used neutron and X-ray tomography to investigate the processes that leads to electrode capacity degradation in lithium batteries. 

Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and University College London investigated degradation on electrode surfaces during cycling using a combination of the two tomography methods.

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IP company targets Asia after securing 40 electrode patents

Tue, 10/11/2016 - 16:05 -- Xuan Zhong

Intellectual Property licensing and commercialisation company Marathon Patent Group aims to expand its Asia operations after securing 40 electrode patents.

The US firm’s wholly owned subsidiary Traverse Technologies acquired a portfolio of around 40 worldwide patents from CPT IP Holdings, LLC.

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Dreamweaver teams up with Nano-Nouvelle for electrode materials

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 14:09 -- Laura Varriale
Geoff Edwards from Nano-Nouvelle

US lithium separator maker Dreamweaver International (Dreamweaver) has partnered with Australia’s materials developer Nano-Nouvelle for the development of electrode materials.

The collaboration is aimed to support Nano-Nouvelles’ range of electrodes for advanced battery systems.

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Lithium-ion electrode study wins Solid State Electrochemistry Workshop Award

Thu, 08/22/2013 - 15:49 -- Ruth Williams
Solid State Electrochemistry 2013 Award

CD-adapco, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) focused provider of computer aided engineering (CAE) software, has won the Solid State Electrochemistry Workshop 2013 award for its study of a porous electrode within a lithium-ion battery.

The awards, held at Heidelberg University, are part of a workshop that addresses mathematical modeling and numerical methods in electrochemical systems as well as latest advances in experimental techniques and relevant materials.

The work simulated electrochemical behavior of a porous electrode using a computer aided engineering product called STAR-CCM+. This allows electrochemists to study porous electrodes in a simulated way, to understand and advance the future of designing electrodes.

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