Focus IssueThe Journal of The Electrochemical Society Focus Issue on Lithium-Sulfur Batteries: Materials, Mechanisms, Modeling, and Applications is now complete, with 18 open access papers published in the ECS Digital Library.

“Lithium sulfur batteries are in the focus of research at many hundreds of prominent research groups throughout the world and at several industrial firms as well,” says JES Technical Editor Doron Aurbach in the issue’s preface. “These batteries are highly attractive due to their theoretical high energy density, that may be 4–5 times higher compared to that of Li-ion batteries.”

The focus issue includes invited papers and selected papers from the 2017 Li-SM3 Conference.

“The important technical challenges of Li-S batteries are dealt with in the papers of this focus issue, including development of new sulfur cathodes, protected Li anodes, new electrolyte systems including solid state electrolytes, study of degradation mechanisms, in-situ spectroscopic efforts, surface and structural aspects,” Aurbach continues. “This focus issue of JES is indeed a very suitable epilogue for a very successful and fruitful meeting on a very “hot” topic in modern electrochemistry in general and advanced batteries in particular.”

Read the full JES Focus Issues on Lithium-Sulfur Batteries: Materials, Mechanisms, Modeling, and Applications.

By: Naga Srujana Goteti, Rochester Institute of Technology; Eric Hittinger, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Eric Williams, Rochester Institute of Technology

Renewable grideCarbon-free energy: Is the answer blowing in the wind? Perhaps, but the wind doesn’t always blow, nor does the sun always shine. The energy generated by wind and solar power is intermittent, meaning that the generated electricity goes up and down according to the weather.

But the output from the electricity grid must be controllable to match the second-by-second changing demand from consumers. So the intermittency of wind and solar power is an operational challenge for the electricity system.

Energy storage is a widely acknowledged solution to the problem of intermittent renewables. The idea is that storage charges up when the wind is blowing, or the sun is shining, then discharges later when the energy is needed. Storage for the grid can be a chemical battery like those we use in electronic devices, but it can also take the form of pumping water up a hill to a reservoir and generating electricity when letting it flow back down, or storing and discharging compressed air in an underground cavern.

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A new water-based air-conditioning system cools air to as low as 18 degrees Celsius (about 64 degrees Fahrenheit) without using energy-intensive compressors and environmentally harmful chemical refrigerants.

This technology could potentially replace the century-old air-cooling principle that is still used in modern-day air-conditioners. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, the new system is portable and can be customized for all types of weather conditions.

The team’s novel air-conditioning system is cost-effective to produce, and it is also more eco-friendly and sustainable.

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BatteryWater-based rechargeable batteries could be one step closer to commercial viability, thanks to research from Empa. According to a new report, a team of researchers has successfully doubled the electrochemical stability of water with a special saline solution.

Energy storage is the backbone of many technological innovations. As researchers explore new ways to develop low-cost, safe batteries, the research team from Empa is looking to water to function as a battery electrolyte.

While a water-electrolyte offers many potential benefits such as low cost and high availability, it does have at least one major drawback: low chemical stability. At a voltage of 1.23 volts, a water cell supplies three times less voltage than a typical lithium-ion cell. While water-based batteries may not see an application in such technologies as electric vehicles, the team of researchers at Empa believe they could be utilized for stationary electricity storage applications.

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Chemical Heritage FoundationECS members M. Stanley Whittingham and Yury Gogotsi will be panelists at the upcoming “Electrical Energy Storage Technologies That Enable the Future” symposium, hosted by the Chemical Heritage Foundation. The event will take place on January 11, 2018 in Philadelphia, PA. Read the full program below.

Moderator
Daryl Boudreaux, Principal, Boudreaux & Associates

Panelists
M. Stanley Whittingham, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering, SUNY Binghamton

Yury Gogotsi, Distinguished University Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Drexel University

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Fuel CellApplying a tiny coating of costly platinum just 1 nanometer thick—about 1/100,000th the width of a human hair—to a core of much cheaper cobalt could bring down the cost of fuel cells.

This microscopic marriage could become a crucial catalyst in new fuel cells that use generate electricity from hydrogen fuel to power cars and other machines. The new fuel cell design would require far less platinum, a very rare metal that sold for almost $900 an ounce the day this article was produced.

“This technique could accelerate our launch out of the fossil-fuel era,” says Chao Wang, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University and senior author of a study published in the journal Nano Letters.

“It will not only reduce the cost of fuel cells,” Wang says. “It will also improve the energy efficiency and power performance of clean electric vehicles powered by hydrogen.”

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BatteryNew research from Sandia National Laboratory is moving toward advancing solid state lithium-ion battery performance in small electronics by identifying major obstacles in how lithium ions flow across battery interfaces.

The team of researchers, including ECS member Forrest Gittleson, looked at the nanoscale chemistry of solid state batteries, focusing on the area where the electrodes and electrolytes make contact.

“The underlying goal of the work is to make solid-state batteries more efficient and to improve the interfaces between different materials,” says Farid El Gabaly, coauthor of the recently published work. “In this project, all of the materials are solid; we don’t have a liquid-solid interface like in traditional lithium-ion batteries.”

According to El Gabaly, the faster the lithium can travel from one electrode to the other, the more efficient the batteries could be.

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A new bendable lithium-ion battery prototype continues delivering electricity even when cut into pieces, submerged in water, or struck with force.

“We are very encouraged by the feedback we are receiving,” says Jeffrey P. Maranchi, manager of the materials science program at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “We are not that far away from testing in the field.”

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Electric VehiclesAs sustainable technologies continue to expand into the marketplace, the demand for better batteries rises. Many researchers in the field are looking toward all-solid-state batteries as a promising venture, citing safety and energy density properties. Now, one company is looking to take that work from the lab to the marketplace.

Electric car maker Fisker has recently filed patents for solid state lithium-ion batteries, stating that mass scale production could begin as soon as 2023. The patent covers novel materials and manufacturing processes that the company plans to use to develop automotive-ready batteries.

Unlike other types of rechargeable batteries that use liquid electrodes and electrolytes, solid state batteries utilize both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes. While liquid electrolytes are efficient in conducting ions, there are certain safety hazards attached (i.e. fires if the battery overheats or is short-circuited). In addition to better safety, solid electrodes could also impact battery cost and energy density, opening up new possibilities for large scale storage applications.

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BatteryCapitalizing on tiny defects can improve electrodes for lithium-ion batteries, new research suggests.

In a study on lithium transport in battery cathodes, researchers found that a common cathode material for lithium-ion batteries, olivine lithium iron phosphate, releases or takes in lithium ions through a much larger surface area than previously thought.

“We know this material works very well but there’s still much debate about why,” says Ming Tang, an assistant professor of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University. “In many aspects, this material isn’t supposed to be so good, but somehow it exceeds people’s expectations.”

Part of the reason, Tang says, comes from point defects—atoms misplaced in the crystal lattice—known as antisite defects. Such defects are impossible to completely eliminate in the fabrication process. As it turns out, he says, they make real-world electrode materials behave very differently from perfect crystals.

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