Joining the race for better, safer lithium batteries

Commercialising the technology or the next generation of lithium batteries is the target for a team of Indonesian and Australian scientists, who are backed by battery manufacturer PT Nipress Tbk.

Lithium batteries allow for a large amount of energy to be packed into a small space. But they’re costly compared to single use ‘disposable’ batteries, and have special requirements for transportation and storage.

Organisations around the world—including Airbus Defence and Space, Imperial College London, and Sony—are working on the next generation of lithium batteries, which use a silicon-carbon compound anode instead of the commonly-used metallic lithium, and replace the cobalt cathode with one of sulphur. These have the potential for more power at less cost, but currently the technology hasn’t been commercialised, and the batteries tend to have a shorter cycle life.

Australian and Indonesian scientists are now hoping to create cheaper, safer, and more energy-efficient lithium-sulphur batteries, and bring the technology right through to commercialisation. A team from the University of Wollongong and Indonesian battery manufacturer PT Nipress Tbk has received over $210,000 dollars for research from 2016-2019 as a 2016 Australian Research Council Linkage Project.

Aside from boosting the countries’ international profiles as leaders in energy storage technologies, they want to improve the batteries’ safety and increase overseas demand for the raw materials used.