Sulphur Layer Enhances Lithium Batteries

Ally Winning


Monash University researchers have made progress in the search to make renewable energy less expensive to store.

The team, from the one of Australia’s leading universities, have developed a lithium-sulphur battery interlayer that allows the rapid transfer of lithium. The new design also improves both the performance and lifetime of the batteries. The new battery is cheaper, greener and faster than other battery designs, while providing faster charging and discharging of batteries and discharge of energy at a faster rate than previously available. The battery can also be made in Australia.


The new breakthrough has been published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. It also continues the previous work into lithium battery development by the team from Monash University’s Faculty of Engineering led by Professor Matthew Hill, Dr Mahdokht Shaibani and Professor Mainak Majumber, in partnership with the CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency.


“A lithium battery interlayer sits in the middle of the battery and keeps the electrodes apart, it helps lithium get from one side of the battery to the other faster. The new interlayer overcomes the slower charge and discharge rates of previous generation lithium-sulphur batteries,” said Professor Hill.


As the world moves towards renewable energy, lithium batteries have become a vital part of the transition as a storage medium. Lithium-sulphur batteries have the potential to advance that technology by offering higher energy density than previous generations of lithium-ion batteries, while reducing the cost. They are capable of storing between two and five times more energy by weight than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries. This capability offers the possibility of designing electric cars that only need to be charged once in a week. The technology to develop lithium-sulphur batteries is well known, but previous designs showed the electrodes to deteriorated rapidly.


“The newly developed interlayer stops polysulphides, a chemical that forms inside this type of battery, from moving across the battery; polysulphides interfere with the anode and shorten the battery life. It means the battery can be charged and discharged as many as 2000 times without failing,” said lead author, PhD candidate Ehsan Ghasemiestabanati.


Another benefit of lithium-sulphur batteries is that they do not rely on metals like cobalt, nickel and manganese, which are critical materials for lithium-ion batteries. These metals are dwindling in supply globally and are often mined in places with high sovereign risk. Sulphur is in abundant supply in Australia and often considered a waste or by-product.


“These batteries are not dependent on minerals that are going to lack supply as the electrification revolution proceeds, so this is another step towards cheaper, cleaner and higher performing batteries that could be made within Australia,” says Professor Hill.


About the researchers;


Professor Matthew Hill is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and the Winner of a 2014 Australian Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. He holds a joint position between CSIRO and Monash.


Professor Mainak Majumder from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Associate Director of the Monash Energy Institute.


Dr Mahdokht Shaibani is a Research Fellow in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering at Monash University. She is the winner of the 2021 L’Oreal and UNESCO Women In Science fellowship.