What are Lithium-Sulfur Batteries?

J. S. Petersen

Rechargeable batteries use a variety of chemicals to produce electricity. As you might suspect, lithium-sulfur batteries use lithium and a sulfur to produce their electrical charge. Lithium-sulfur batteries are relatively new, and differ in many ways from the more common lithium ion batteries. Because they use no heavy metals in their construction, these batteries have the potential to be more environmentally friendly than other batteries. It may also be easier to dispose of them without danger to people, plants, or wildlife.

Car batteries that are rated for lower temperatures may use lithium-sulfur to produce an electrical charge.
Car batteries that are rated for lower temperatures may use lithium-sulfur to produce an electrical charge.

Sulfur is a relatively cheap material, so lithium-sulfur batteries have the potential to be less expensive than other battery types. With a lower starting cost to manufacturers, these batteries could save consumers money. There is also a possible cost savings because they tend to provide much longer charges than lithium ion batteries. With double the lifetime or greater, you might be able to get by with a single battery of this kind for your laptop or rechargeable hand tool. Instead of having one rechargeable battery in your drill and another in the charger, one lithium-sulfur battery could easily last the entire project.

Another reported advantage of these batteries is their ability to work well in very cold weather. Extreme cold slows down the chemical reaction in batteries, sapping their power. This is why many car batteries are rated with temperature levels. Electric vehicles or outdoor devices that need to operate reliably in very cold conditions could use them to ensure proper functioning.

With thin construction and light materials, lithium-sulfur batteries tend to weigh less than other, similar batteries. Not only is the lowered weight a bonus, but the batteries provide more power per weight than many competitors. In devices like cell phones, for which light weight is a key selling point, the use of these batteries could be a big improvement. Although the batteries are still relatively new, they seem to have a lot of advantages over other types of rechargeable batteries. While it remains to be seen if they will live up to their expectations, it is a good bet that lithium-sulfur batteries will be one of the next big things in rechargeable battery technology.

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