The demand for rechargeable batteries rises every day. The market is expected to quadruple over the next 10 years.

This increase is mainly related to the global advance of electric vehicles and the increased need for energy storage from renewable energy sources. After all, in the search for a way to store sustainable energy locally, rechargeable batteries will have to be used. Europe wishes to take up a leading position in the development and production of future generations of batteries. At the moment we mainly use lithium-ion batteries. These batteries contain heavy metals such as cobalt and nickel, which makes these batteries relatively heavy – literally – in relation to their energy content per kilogram. Mining these metals requires a lot of energy and water, and is very harmful to the environment. The availability of cobalt is also limited and the material is considered to ‘critical raw material’.

The advantages of sulphur

That is why VITO is working with UHasselt as part of Energyville to develop more sustainable lithium-sulphur batteries. Sulphur is one of the most widely available raw materials and is often considered waste, so its price is very low.  Sulphur is also light. This gives lithium-sulphur the potential to store five times more energy at the same weight compared to current lithium-ion batteries. The initial applications are expected to be in drones, but in the long term, light batteries are a key advantage for many mobile and transport applications.

Seeking partners

Prototypes of lithium-sulphur batteries currently still face a number of key issues. The battery life, the number of times a battery can be charged and discharged, has to be greatly improved. Additionally, the battery materials also have to be modified to allow for faster charging and discharging. We are trying to resolve these issues through targeted research.

The development project started in 2017 and the team will be further strengthened in 2019. The project is ready for partners that wish to participate in the further development of these batteries.