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A project that began in 2007 at Stanford University with a goal to build a better battery now shows some promising results. Researchers from the renowned American university have been working hard in the last couple of years to create a lithium-sulfur battery which is expected to be the successor to the currently indispensable lithium-ion battery.
Specifications of the lithium-sulfur battery
Scientists recently managed to build a lithium-sulfur battery that lasts almost four times as long as a lithium-ion battery of the same size. In addition, the newly created battery is also safer than the batteries we used today: it doesn't ever explode. Even though today's lithium-ion batteries are much safer than their predecessors, sometimes they still explode after a short-circuit.
The capacity of the new battery is also significantly improved. It offers 80% more than a lithium-ion battery of a similar size and weight. Also, its power density is increased by up to 10 times. The rate of discharge in the new battery has been improved dramatically as well: it lasts nearly four times as long as the standard lithium-ion batteries that are now in use.
A major issue with today's batteries is the negative effect they have on the environment once thrown away. Non-rechargeable lithium batteries are considered an environmental hazard because they contain metals that can infiltrate the soil and reach water sources. Lithium-ion batteries are typically not considered as dangerous, though the European Union advises vendors to recycle them. However, at the moment the recycling process is slow and inefficient because of the costs involved.
The new lithium-sulfur battery will be friendlier with the environment. Since it will have a longer lifespan, it won't be necessary to throw it away after its first or second year of use, like we do today with most of our batteries.
The lithium-sulfur battery was built in a way that prevents it from exploding when in use. Even though exploding batteries have not been a major issue for some years now, instances still exist when batteries blow away while inserted in a device. The new battery, which is still work in progress, promises to solve entirely this issue. Scientists are still perfecting it hoping to make it entirely fireproof.
The new lithium-sulfur battery currently in development might change the way mobile devices are used. For instance, it will bring us closer to always-on Internet connectivity. The advantages of having a mobile device powered up for longer periods of time are also significant and lead to increased accessibility and a more rapid development of applications.
However promising the lithium-sulfur battery is, it won't be realistic to assume that it will be used in a large scale anytime soon. Researchers still have a lot of work to do on it and many issues need to be address before it reaches the public.
Nonetheless, the new battery is in development and will make its appearance on the market sooner or later, minimizing the negative effects batteries have on the environment and changing dramatically the way we used mobile devices.