What's Up UA? - Better Batteries From Waste Sulfur - The Explorer: University Of Arizona

What's Up UA? - Better Batteries From Waste Sulfur

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:13 am

A new chemical process can transform waste sulfur into a lightweight plastic that may improve batteries for electric cars, reports a University of Arizona-led team. The new plastic has other potential uses, including optical uses.

The team has successfully used the new plastic to make lithium-sulfur batteries.

"We've developed a new, simple and useful chemical process to convert sulfur into a useful plastic," lead researcher Jeffrey Pyun said.

Next-generation lithium-sulfur, or Li-S, batteries will be better for electric and hybrid cars and for military uses because they are more efficient, lighter and cheaper than those currently used, said Pyun, a UA associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

The new plastic has great promise as something that can be produced easily and inexpensively on an industrial scale, he said.

The team's discovery could provide a new use for the sulfur left over when oil and natural gas are refined into cleaner-burning fuels.

Although there are some industrial uses for sulfur, the amount generated from refining fossil fuels far outstrips the current need for the element. Some oil refineries, such as those in Ft. McMurray in Alberta, are accumulating yellow mountains of waste sulfur.

"There's so much of it we don't know what to do with it," said Pyun. He calls the left-over sulfur "the garbage of transportation."

About one-half pound of sulfur is left over for every 19 gallons of gasoline produced from fossil fuels, calculated co-author Jared Griebel, a UA chemistry and biochemistry doctoral candidate.

The researchers have filed an international patent for their new chemical process and for the new polymeric electrode materials for Li-S batteries.

The international team's research article, "The Use of Elemental Sulfur as an Alternative Feedstock for Polymeric Materials," is scheduled for online publication in Nature Chemistry on April 14. The National Research Foundation of Korea, the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the American Chemical Society and the University of Arizona funded the research.

Pyun and Griebel's co-authors are Woo Jin Chung, Adam G. Simmonds, Hyun Jun Ji, Philip T. Dirlam,Richard S. Glass and Árpád Somogyi of the UA; Eui Tae Kim, Hyunsik Yoon, Jungjin Park, Yung-Eun Sung, and Kookheon Char of Seoul National University in Korea; Jeong Jae Wie, Ngoc A. Nguyen, Brett W. Guralnick and Michael E. Mackay of the University of Delaware in Newark; and Patrick Theato of the University of Hamburg in Germany.

Pyun wanted to apply his expertise as a chemist to energy-related research. He knew about the world’s glut of elemental sulfur at fossil fuel refineries – so he focused on how chemistry could use the cheap sulfur to satisfy the need for good Li-S batteries.

He and his colleagues tried something new: transforming liquid sulfur into a useful plastic that eventually could be produced easily on an industrial scale.

Sulfur poses technical challenges. It doesn't easily form the stable long chains of molecules, known as polymers, needed make a moldable plastic, and most materials don't dissolve in sulfur.

Pyun and his colleagues identified the chemicals most likely to polymerize sulfur and girded themselves for the long process of testing those chemicals one by one by one. More than 20 chemicals were on the list.

They got lucky.

"The first one worked – and nothing else thereafter," Pyun said.

Even though the first experiment worked, the scientists needed to try the other chemicals on their list to see if others worked better and to understand more about working with liquid sulfur.

They've dubbed their process "inverse vulcanization" because it requires mostly sulfur with a small amount of an additive. Vulcanization is the chemical process that makes rubber more durable by adding a small amount of sulfur to rubber.

The new plastic performs better in batteries than elemental sulfur, Pyun said, because batteries with cathodes made of elemental sulfur can be used and recharged only a limited number of times before they fail.

The new plastic has electrochemical properties superior to those of the elemental sulfur now used in Li-S batteries, the researchers report. The team's batteries exhibited high specific capacity (823 mAh/g at 100 cycles) and enhanced capacity retention.

Several companies have expressed interest in the new plastic and the new battery, Pyun said.

The team's next step is comparing properties of the new plastic to existing plastics and exploring other practical applications such as photonics for the new plastic.

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More about

Welcome to the discussion.

Kino College

Kino CollegeEnroll today: http://www.kinocollege.com/

Monday 09/22/2014

What's Up UA? - Wildcats Rally, Hail Mary TD Defeats Cal, 49-45

Thursday 09/18/2014

What's Up UA? - When Job Loss Equals Weight Gain

Monday 09/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Don’t Underestimate Your Mind’s Eye

Thursday 09/11/2014

What's Up UA? - 'What I Wish I Had Known as a Freshman'

Tuesday 09/09/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Undergraduate Researchers Take to the Radio

Thursday 09/04/2014

What's Up UA? - Send Your Tweet – and Your Name – to an Asteroid

Tuesday 09/02/2014

What's Up UA? - Brown Foundations' $2.5 Million Kicks Off Catapult Corp

Thursday 08/28/2014

What's Up UA? - New Veterinary Degree Program Made Possible by $9M Gift is Critical for State

Monday 08/25/2014

What's Up UA? - Laser 'Lightning Rods' Channel Electricity Through Thin Air

Thursday 08/21/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Fall Enrollment Sets Record for Diversity, Number of Freshmen

Tuesday 08/19/2014

What's Up UA? - Remarkable Résumé: UA Student Journalist's Career Includes CNN, NYT Phoenix

Friday 08/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Through Innovative Partnership, 'Hot Shot' Team Tackles Yuma Produce Perils

Wednesday 08/13/2014

What's Up UA? - The UA Named a Top College by The Princeton Review

Monday 08/11/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Researchers Study Increasing Lifespan and Immune Function What's Up UA? - UA Undergrads Conducting Microgravity Research Aboard NASA's G-Force One

Monday 06/09/2014

What's up UA? - UA to Host U.S. and Mexico Officials Exploring Collaborations in Education, Innovation, Research

Thursday 06/05/2014

What's Up UA? - New Wilderness Medicine Class Hones Patient Care Skills in Rugged Conditions

Tuesday 06/03/2014

Track Cats Send Eight Athletes to TrackTown USA

Monday 06/02/2014

What's Up UA? - Bringing a Spacecraft Back From the Dead

Friday 05/30/2014

What's Up UA? - Heart Attack Patient Defies Odds with Tailored Surgical Treatment at UA Medical Center

Thursday 05/29/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Marketing Students Win National AT&T Competition

Tuesday 05/27/2014

What's Up UA? - Scientists Discover Genetic Basis of Pest Resistance to Biotech Cotton

Friday 05/23/2014

What's up UA? - Four UA Students Picked for Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarships

Wednesday 05/21/2014

What's Up UA? - Scientists Discover Genetic Basis of Pest Resistance to Biotech Cotton

Monday 05/19/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Tunnels Get Carbon Fiber Makeover

Thursday 05/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Earning a UA Degree, in a Grandfather’s Memory

Tuesday 05/13/2014

What's Up UA? - UA's Phoenix Cancer Center is 'Topped Off,' Joins Award-Winning Medical School Building

Thursday 05/08/2014

What's Up UA? - University of Arizona to Offer Nation’s First Bachelor of Arts in Law

Monday 05/05/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Combating Health Disparities to Build Healthier Communities

Wednesday 04/30/2014

What's Up UA? - Scientists at the UA Make Critical End-Stage Liver Disease Discovery

Friday 04/25/2014

What's Up UA? - A Century-Long Track Record of Serving Arizona and Benefiting the State's Economy

Wednesday 04/23/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Opens Nation’s First Resource Center for Student Vets Studying Health Care UA Wildcat Instant Decision Days at PCC campuses April 29-May 2

Monday 04/21/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Scientists to Begin Construction on NASA Spacecraft that will Visit Asteroid in 2018

Thursday 04/10/2014

What's Up UA? - Spring Fling Celebrates 40th Anniversary With Return to UA Mall

Monday 04/07/2014

Mauga’s Walkoff Sweeps Stanford

Thursday 04/03/2014

What's Up UA? - 4-H Programs Bring Enrichment and Learning to Thousands in Arizona

Monday 03/31/2014

What's Up UA? - The Viruses You Don't Know About (Yet)

Tuesday 03/25/2014

What's Up UA? - Twice Torn Apart: A UA Alumna's Road to the Paralympic Games

Tuesday 03/18/2014

What's Up UA? - Tucson Village Farm Honored as Model Program for the Nation

Friday 03/14/2014

What's Up UA? - Several UA Graduate Programs Reach New Heights

Tuesday 03/11/2014

What's Up UA? - Olympics Interns Share Sochi Experiences

Friday 03/07/2014

What's Up UA? - Seeing Cancer Differently

Wednesday 03/05/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Offers Accelerated Bachelor's to Master’s Program in Environmental Health Sciences

Tuesday 03/04/2014

What's Up UA? - Third-Ranked Men's Basketball Heads to Corvallis to Face OSU

Friday 02/28/2014

What's Up UA? - UA College of Optical Sciences to Celebrate 50th Anniversary With Laser Fun Day

Thursday 02/27/2014

What's Up UA? - Obesity-Related Gut Bacteria Higher in People in Northern Climes

Monday 02/24/2014

Wildcats Sweep Sunday Doubleheader, Series From Alcorn State

Thursday 02/20/2014

What's Up UA? - First-Year UA Minority Student Retention Rate Highest Ever

Monday 02/17/2014

What's Up UA? - The Flu and You
Spacer4px

Follow us on Facebook

Online poll

Loading…