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Scientists make breakthrough with high-power lithium-sulfur batteries: 'Our research shows a significant advancement'

Research to develop better battery options is crucial as more EVs enter the market.

Research to develop better battery options is crucial as more EVs enter the market.

Photo Credit: University of Adelaide

A research team at the University of Adelaide in Australia may have turned a corner regarding lithium-sulfur batteries — their lab work indicates a recent breakthrough that can drastically increase charge times. 

"Our research shows a significant advancement, enabling lithium-sulfur batteries to achieve full charge/discharge in less than five minutes," Professor Shizhang Qiao, the research lead, said in a university report. 

That's an important milestone for lithium-sulfur. This type of battery is used to power some laptops, smartphones, and even electric vehicles, but the Adelaide experts note that it typically requires hours to charge.

The benefits of lithium-sulfur include better energy density — the amount of electricity the power pack can store in relation to its mass or volume — among other performance perks, according to AzoNano, an online technology news site.

Perhaps most importantly, sulfur is common and inexpensive. That's a big gain when the material replaces or reduces some of the hard-to-gather, costly metals in typical batteries, including cobalt, lithium, and others. As a result, the sulfur concept represents a "cheaper, lighter, and potentially safer technology," all per Azo. 

Common, reliable lithium-ion batteries are used in many EVs and already make the rides an overall cleaner option than gas-guzzlers, despite dirty and invasive mining needed to gather some of the power pack materials. 

That's why research from Adelaide and elsewhere to develop better options is important as more EVs enter the market. Some estimates have global sales hitting 17 million this year, according to IEA. 

For its part, sulfur has been identified by multiple groups of experts as a promising alternative. 

You will likely need a manual on electrocatalysts and nanotechnology to follow along with the Adelaide research

In summary, they found a carbon-based electrocatalyst, made in part of a "carbon material and cobalt-zinc clusters." The result was a great "power-to-weight ratio" and the minutes-long charge time, all according to the lab report. 

In addition to powering devices and EVs, the team noted grid storage as a possible use for the tech. Tesla has huge lithium-ion batteries called "Megapacks" in Texas, Alaska, and even Australia that store intermittent renewable energy. The storage is needed so that power from the wind and sun can be used during peak-demand hours and overnight. 

The improved tech could be game-changing for transitioning our energy system to renewable sources, making community solar and similar programs more accessible. These offerings allow energy customers to tap sustainable electricity without installing solar panels at home.

With some quick research online, you can often save up to 15% on your power bill and prevent thousands of pounds of air pollution from being spewed each year. That also provides for a healthier atmosphere. 

The Adelaide team sees a great future for their work Down Under. It will be interesting to see how far they can take the innovation. 

"Our breakthrough has the potential to revolutionize energy storage technologies and advance the development of high-performance battery systems for various applications," Qiao said in the summary. 

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