Monash University scientists unveil sustainable lithium-sulfur battery with enhanced efficiency

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SEM image of nanoporous polymer-coating on lithium. Image credit: Monash University

Researchers at Monash University have unveiled a new lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery design that aims to reduce costs, lower environmental impact, and enhance recycling options.

In particular, this innovative battery design introduces a nanoporous polymer-coated lithium foil anode, effectively reducing the amount of lithium required in each battery, and offering a host of advantages.

In a news release, the university said Li-S batteries are emerging as a highly efficient energy storage solution that can deliver more energy per gram than traditional lithium-ion batteries.

However, these batteries typically contain a lithium anode and a sulfur cathode, which undergo significant stress during the charging and discharging process.

Additionally, lithium, while efficient, comes with the environmental cost of mining and transportation.

In their research paper, a team of scientists from Monash University, led by PhD student Declan McNamara, and including Professor Matthew Hill and Professor Mainak Majumder, in collaboration with Dr Makhdokht Shaibani of RMIT University, demonstrated that applying a nanoporous polymer coating directly to the lithium foil anode can address these issues.

McNamara introduced a thin polymer coating on the lithium anode, significantly enhancing the battery’s cycling capacity.

“The polymer contains tiny holes less than a nanometre in size – one billionth of a metre – which allow lithium ions to move freely while blocking other chemicals that would attack the lithium. The coating also acts as a scaffold for lithium, and helps it charge and discharge repeatedly,” he explained.

Professor Majumder emphasised the importance of Li-metal protection technologies, particularly in lithium metal-based energy storage systems.

“The study establishes a new framework to protect Li-metal from rapid decay or catastrophic failure which has been an Achilles heel for Li-S batteries,” he said.

Meanwhile, Professor Hill highlighted the immediate potential of this technology, especially in the growing markets of electric vehicles, drones, and electronic devices.

“Producing more economical and environmentally sensitive battery options in Australia would be a great use of this technology, and we look forward to working with commercial partners to develop and manufacture this technology,” Hill remarked.