Sulfur continues to offer promise in the energy storage realm. Low- cost lithium sulfur batteries were just a research topic a few years ago, and are now moving closer to practicality with new developments that could offer four times the energy storage of lithium-ion batteries.
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a technique that uses a solid electrolyte to produce a stable, low-cost, sulfur-based battery. "The new ionically-conductive cathode enabled the ORNL battery to maintain a capacity of 1200 milliamp-hours (mAh) per gram after 300 charge-discharge cycles at 60 degrees Celsius. For comparison, a traditional lithium-ion battery cathode has an average capacity between 140-170 mAh/g. Because lithium-sulfur batteries deliver about half the voltage of lithium-ion versions, this eight-fold increase in capacity demonstrated in the ORNL battery cathode translates into four times the gravimetric energy density of lithium-ion technologies."
Sulfur is a plentiful element, and is often a waste product of industrial processes, making it very cheap and readily available. Sulfur based batteries are also said to be less prone to instability and accidental fire than present lithium ion batteries are in part because the electrolytes are solid rather than liquid.
Sulfur has been part of large-scale sodium sulfur batteries for many years, but that technology requires high temperatures, and is best suited for industrial applications. The new developments offer the possibility of bringing sulfur-based batteries to consumer level applications.
via: Treehugger (HT: Megan Treacy)