Can New Aluminum-Sulfur Batteries Beat Lithium?

Lithium batteries are the most widely used power storage batteries for wind energy and solar energy in the world. But for most people who use this battery application, its cost is always expensive. Many people even long for a more affordable battery to replace the current status quo of expensive lithium batteries. However, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have done it, and they have created a new type of battery—aluminum-sulfur battery.

Can New Aluminum-Sulfur Batteries Beat Lithium Batteries
Can New Aluminum-Sulfur Batteries Beat Lithium

The new battery architecture, developed by MIT professor Donald Sadoway and 15 other MIT talents from China, Canada, Kentucky and Tennessee, was published Aug. 24 in the journal Nature.

Composition and advantages of aluminum-sulfur battery

The battery ultimately opted to operate with a molten salt electrolyte consisting of NaCl-KCl-AlCl3 (close to the boiling point of water).

Using aluminum and cathode sulfur as electrode materials, the multi-step switching paths between each other allow fast charging at temperatures up to 200°C and can withstand hundreds of high charge rate cycles without the formation of aluminum dendrites

(the Narrow metal spikes that form on one electrode can eventually grow on the other, causing short circuits and affecting efficiency, risking triggering thermal runaway).

 At the same time, the cost of aluminum-sulfur batteries is less than one-sixth of that of lithium-ion batteries and can be recycled.

Explains Sadoway, John F. Elliott Professor Emeritus of Materials Chemistry.

“I wanted to invent something that was better, much better, than lithium-ion batteries for small-scale stationary storage, and ultimately for automotive [uses],”

Most importantly, the battery does not require an external heat source to maintain its operating temperature. Heat is naturally generated chemically during charging and discharging. This charge-idle-discharge-idle is enough to generate enough heat to keep the object warm.

The new aluminum-sulfur batteries are ideal for powering individual homes and small and medium-sized businesses, generating tens of kilowatt-hours of storage capacity. Sadoway and his students are also developing new liquid metal batteries for utility-scale services, laying the foundation for a spin-off company called Ambri. The company is expected to deliver the first products within the next year. Sadoway also won the European Inventor of the Year Award for this invention.

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