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Lithium Sulphur Batteries to Save the World

Every so often, cutting-edge technological advancements seem to arrive out of nowhere and transform our society. Examples of such ground-breaking unexpected discoveries include penicillin, microwaves, dynamite, and X-rays. 


We might have had another one of these amazing accidental discoveries this year as well, but this time this discovery might transform our lifestyle and could perhaps rescue our earth from the imminent climate crisis. The lithium Sulphur battery could probably save the world. 


Whatever Happened to Lithium-ion Batteries? 


The search for reliable and efficient technology to help support our contemporary way of life and allow sustainable methods, like electric vehicles, has been ongoing for decades. 


Ever since 1990, the preferred technology for batteries has been lithium-ion which is used to power everything from satellites to energy infrastructures, Tesla's, and cell phones. However, lithium ions have several serious drawbacks, even though they catapulted us into the twenty-first century. 

  • Firstly, mining the elements required to make them, such as cobalt, is often exceedingly environmentally destructive. They even leak forth harmful substances and devastate large ecosystems. (In reality, a humanitarian issue also exists because a number of these mines exploit child labour and have dangerous work environments.) 
  • Secondly, there is the sustainability issue. We expect our smartphones to charge more quickly, but if you regularly charge lithium-ion batteries rapidly, as everyone who owns a smartphone would testify, they can lose significant capacity. This is the same for electronic vehicles as well. 
  • Battery deterioration is a major concern, especially for the EV industry. If the batteries are worn out, a used EV may occasionally be worthless and extremely expensive to replace. Overall, this is holding down the adoption of EVs and will only make the already serious issue of electrical waste worse. 
  • Lithium-ion batteries also have a density issue. The issue of density is also present. Despite being very energy-dense, lithium-ion batteries are nonetheless very heavy, big, and cumbersome. Because of their weight, batteries are not practical for various uses, such as electric-powered ships and planes. 
  • Fire hazards are also accompanied in lithium-ion batteries, as a single defective cell may ignite and burn ferociously on its own. 


Lithium Sulphur Batteries 


Apparently, the accidental discovery of lithium sulphur batteries seems to solve all the problems mentioned above. It can be produced for less money, with less environmentally damaging materials used, with approximately three times greater energy density (which translates to a lightweight battery) and is much less prone to catch fire. All this while not affecting charging levels. 


So, what's stopping them from being commercialised? 


Lithium-sulphur batteries usually are only capable of handling approximately half as many charge cycles as compared to a lithium-ion battery. In other words, a lithium-sulphur battery is essentially dead within a year or two of continuous utilisation.


This led to experimentation to address this problem by altering the chemicals in the battery's cathode. They wanted to decelerate the chemical reaction that occurs when batteries charge and discharge, which produces polysulfides. These particles actually eliminate sulphur from the electrode, which leads to a drastic reduction in capacity. 


However, the accidental discovery was even better; a sulphur chemical reaction that essentially shuts down battery deterioration! This revelation stunned them so much that they were forced to double-check everything to be sure they weren't misinterpreting it. 


This process totally halts the reaction that generates polysulfides inside the batteries. The batteries were put through 4,000 charge cycles and didn't lose any capacity, which means they can last two times longer than lithium-ion batteries. It's also important to note that their batteries could recharge just as quickly and had the power density of lithium-ion thrice! 


In Conclusion 


To suggest that this discovery is extraordinary would be a gross understatement. 


It isn't just the discovery but also the additional advantages like higher safety margin and decreased battery expansion that make it the ideal battery for mass production.


The scientists, however, have yet to work out what actually is taking place in order to create a dependable and reliable battery for widespread use. 


However, the wait will definitely be worthwhile and lithium sulphur batteries could save our planet from the serious climatic changes caused because of our modern lifestyle.  

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