More and more of our world is going to be battery-operated. This is because we are pushing for cleaner transport and industry and electricity is the way to do it. However, batteries are not exactly green themselves, because of their internal chemistry and heavy metals used. Now scientists at the University of Adelaide are developing a new generation of batteries, which will employ sulphur chemistry and will be significantly friendlier to the environment.
There are several problems with the current battery technology. First of all, they are quite expensive because of the manufacturing methods and rare Earth metals used. Secondly, their internal chemistry is not particularly environmentally friendly. And scientists believe they could address both of these issues with one go. Researchers in Australia have now achieved the highest voltage output of an aluminium–sulphur battery.
Sulphur is a great electrode material, because it is extremely common on Earth and its properties lend themselves to high capacity designs. Researchers performed huge work on sulphur oxidation processes and managed to achieve an approximately 1.8 volts of steady power output. This might not sound too amazing to some of the readers, but it is actually a significantly greater voltage than present technology. So technical performance of aluminium–sulphur batteries should not be a huge challenge. But there is another advantage of this technology.
Scientists say that aluminium–sulphur batteries would be significantly cheaper than current commercial lithium-ion batteries. That is in part because of how common sulphur is in Earth’s crust – it is a reasonably cheap material. Furthermore, the chemistry of the aluminium–sulphur batteries is much more environmentally friendly.
Anton Middelberg, one of the scientists in the project, said: “The diminishing availability of natural resources places constraints on traditional social and economic models, calling for new and sustainable options. Fundamental research such as this undertaken at the University of Adelaide will have far-reaching benefits for society”. Scientists say that their research in the process of sulphur oxidation is going to advance other fields as well. It is obviously aimed at aluminium-sulphur batteries, but the knowledge researchers will obtain will aid the creation of other metal-sulphur batteries as well.
The world will need more and more batteries. And you see this process already – electric cars, electric trucks, electric ships, wireless tools, etc. We will depend on batteries more and more and we need to make sure they are affordable, easy to recycle and environmentally friendly to make.
Source: University of Adelaide