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John O | December 2016

JCESR expects to see improved lithium-sulfur battery by 2018


in its end of the year message, the joint center for energy storage research (jcesr) announced that it was on target to meet its five-year goal of creating better batteries for the electricity grid and for transportation. the goal is to provide five times the energy density at one-fifth the cost of commercial batteries in 2011 and jcesr director george crabtree said that the center is going to meet those requirements by 2018.

 

crabtree_600

jcesr director george crabtree announced the organization was on target for 2017. (jcesr)

 

the jcesr was created by the u.s. department of energy in november 2012 and is overseen by the argonne national laboratory. the jcesr is a partnership between 10 universities, five national laboratories, five industrial firms, and has received more than $120 million in funding for its five-year goal of producing of “looking beyond lithium-ion” batteries.

 

after four years of studying options and “creating a new paradigm” for research and development that encompassed more than 180 researchers across more than 20 different companies and organizations and publishing more than 250 scientific journals and 24,000 electrolyte genome/materials project calculations, the jcesr has narrowed its focus for the next year on a redox flow battery for the electricity grid and a lithium-sulfur batteries.

 

the flow batteries are based on the concept of redox-active organic macromolecules that “exceed existing limits on energy density, lifetime, and efficiency.” in particular the jcesr has developed polymer membranes with adjustable pore sizes that can be used in conjunction with redox-active colloids to produce multiple electrical pathways at a lower cost.

 

in terms of lithium-sulfur batteries, the jcesr is researching an air-breathing aqueous sulfur flow battery that incorporates an aqueous sulfur anode with an oxygen cathode, which eliminates the need for a lithium anode and would be useful for “long duration energy storage for the grid.” there are also designs for multivalent batteries that replace single-charge lithium ions with ions that have multiple positive charges to increase storage capacity.

 

crabtree wrote, “for the lithium-sulfur battery, we are concentrating our efforts on three design features. one is electrolytes that limit undesirable reactions of the polysulfides that form during charge and discharge. another is binders in the sulfur cathode that trap polysulfides before they dissolve in the electrolyte and ensure mechanical integrity of the cathode during cycling. the third is special membranes that prevent movement of polysulfides from the cathode to the anode and maintain a smooth anode surface during cycling.”

 

after setting lofty goals and inviting as much research and collaboration as possible on the subject, the jcesr seems poised to fulfill its mission and produce a breakthrough that could have wide-ranging effects on the electrical grid and the production of electric vehicles.

 

in an article on hybridcars.com that details the potential changes and their effects on the automotive industry, jeff cobb said, “the federal brain trust may deliver a prototype battery whose proverbial floor is above the ceiling of the best li-ion batteries in cars like the tesla model s, chevy bolt, and, well, anyone…what this could mean is lighter electric cars with greater range, lower costs, fewer packaging challenges in manufacturing, and more.”

 

to learn more about the work of the jcesr, visit http://www.jcesr.org

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