Boosting battery research

June 18, 2024 8:00 am Published by

Most Americans don’t leave home without at least one lithium battery-powered device, and someday, the house itself may have a battery back-up.

Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are working to make these large back-up batteries less expensive, hold more energy and be less prone to bursting into flame. One way to tackle all three challenges is by changing up the battery chemistry with the addition of sulfur, according to Sandia battery expert Melissa Meyerson.

“One of the biggest benefits compared to what is on the market today is the energy density,” Meyerson said. “Lithium and sulfur are two of the most energy-dense materials for batteries, and sulfur is incredibly cheap.”

A partnership between technical experts at Sandia and local entrepreneurs facilitated by the Department of Energy’s Boost program aims to get big, safe, stationary lithium-sulfur flow batteries to market faster.

The flow battery design allows for a physical separation of the portions of a household battery labeled with a minus and plus sign. This separation should make the battery safer and less likely to lose charge when just sitting idle, said Leo Small, a Sandia materials scientist who is also part of the collaboration.

“One goal is to make grid-scale batteries: really, really big batteries,” Small said. “One of the objectives we were trying to go after by putting the lithium sulfur chemistry into a flow battery architecture was to physically separate the anode and the cathode to potentially make it safer when dealing with thousands or millions of kilowatt-hours of energy storage.”

One thousand kilowatt-hours is enough to power approximately 33 U.S. households for a day.

Read the complete news release.