Skip to content

June 19, 2017

Seaweed could be the key to long-lasting electric car batteries

by John_A

Lithium-sulfur batteries are theoretically ideal for powering gadgets. They have more than twice the energy density of lithium-ion packs, but at a much lower cost thanks to sulfur’s dirt-cheap price. There’s just one problem: sulfur dissolves, giving the battery a short lifespan. That’s where Berkeley Lab might help. It recently discovered that a derivative of red seaweed, carrageenan, can stabilize a lithium-sulfur battery and make it practical for more devices. If you use the seaweed derivative as a binder (the “glue” that keeps a battery’s active materials together), it reacts with the sulfur and prevents it from dissolving. The ultimate goal is to produce cells that last for “thousands” of charging cycles, or better than many batteries you see today.

Some of the practical benefits are immediately evident. Your phone could last much longer on a charge even as the price went down. However, the researchers are eager to point out the potential uses in transportation. As lithium-sulfur is lighter than lithium-ion, it’s ideal for drones and other electric aircraft. The technology could also prove to be a minor miracle for electric cars. GM is one of Berkeley Lab’s partners, so it’s easy to imagine the Chevy Bolt maker using lithium-sulfur in future EVs that are both more affordable and drive much further on a charge.

The gotcha? It’s still quite early. The team needs to understand more about how the derivative interacts with sulfur, and whether or not it’s reversible if necessary. It may be a long while before you see a lithium-sulfur battery on the road or in your pocket. All the same, it’s notable that the technology is even on the roadmap. We’ve seen many promises of longer-lasting batteries, but the low-cost nature of this solution should give it a better shot at reaching real-world products.

Source: Berkeley Lab, ScienceDirect

Advertisements
Read more from News

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

%d bloggers like this: