One English research company has managed to increase efficiency of Lithium Sulphur cells to provide UK military with safer lightweight batteries with better endurance.
Part of a research project coordinated by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the sulphur ion batteries developed by Culham-based OXIS Energy are capable of withstanding extreme loads including thermal and mechanical damage.
Unlike conventional Lithium Ion batteries, the sulphur-ion cells don’t short-circuit or catch fire easily, even if damaged by a metallic nail or a bullet. Tests have shown the batteries keep providing power even if penetrated by sharp metal objects and don’t pose risks to the environment as they don’t contain any heavy metal or toxic components.
"The OXIS team has made considerable progress in developing the cell technology for use in mobile military communications systems,” said OXIS Energy's Chief Executive Officer Huw Hampson-Jones. “Phase 3 takes us a step closer towards rolling out the safe battery systems for use by our military personnel on active duty. The next stage is to make further improvements, so that the Ministry of Defence can phase-in the technology and achieve significant costs savings.”
During the recently concluded third development phase, the engineers have managed to increase efficiency of the cells by 60 per cent compared to the 300 Wh/kg achieved in 2013 when phase two had been concluded. The team hopes they will achieve a further 20 per cent improvement before rolling out the technology.
To maximise efficiency, the company has fine-tuned the battery chemistry, while using mostly recycled and recyclable sulphur. The final cells have a long shelf life and do not require charging during prolonged periods of storage, making them well suitable for military purposes.
The UK Ministry of Defence hopes switching to lithium sulphur batteries will reduce the load on army patrol personnel who have to carry kilos of equipment.