LiSTAR – The Lithium-Sulfur Technology Accelerator

There is a need to develop batteries which supersede the practical capabilities of lithium-ion batteries to enable the electrification of applications including aerospace and heavier electric vehicles. While there are several realistic candidates, the Li-S chemistry combines relative technical maturity with a practical limit that places the technology in a unique position to facilitate commercialisation.

Compared with conventional Li-ion batteries, Li-S cells store more energy per unit weight and can operate in a wider operating temperature range. They may also offer safety and cost improvements. Yet the widespread use of Li-S faces major hurdles that stem from sulfur’s insulating nature, migration of discharge products leading to the loss of active material, and degradation of the metallic lithium anode. Scientists and engineers need to know more about how the system performs and degrades in order to overcome current limitations in the power density and lifespan of Li-S cells that could unlock their use and see their translation from research into prototypes and industry.

LiSTAR is designed to address these challenges. The consortium is generating new knowledge, materials and engineering solutions, thanks to its application-guided approach, with dual focus on fundamental research at material and cell level, and an improved approach to system engineering. The project is addressing five key areas of research: cathodes and cathode interfaces; electrolytes and electrochemistry; anodes and new cell concepts; cell and system engineering; and Li-S characterisation. In doing so, the consortium is seeking to enable rapid improvements in Li-S technologies, with the aim of securing the UK as the global hub for the research, development and commercialisation of this emergent technology.

Timeline with milestone/deliverables (March 2025)

  • Identify and develop routes for ultra-high energy cells and improve their durability
  • Improve safety via implementation of non-flammable electrolytes
  • Overcome key remaining commercialisation barriers for Li-S batteries, particularly the use of LiNO3 to expand the operating temperature window
  • Demonstrate the scalability of components and feasibility of the technology at relevant scales
  • Understand and mitigate the anode-dominated degradation routes of Li-S cells
  • Demonstrate a battery management system to maximise performance
  • Develop bespoke advanced cell monitoring and diagnostic techniques from the outset of the chemistry’s commercialisation

In doing so, the project aims to pave the way for multiple Li-S cell concepts: an ‘energy’ and ‘lifetime’ cell, with significantly improved operating temperature window, power and energy densities, and cycle life.

 

Project innovations

LiSTAR is tracking the technical requirements for Li-S batteries in strategic markets with near term opportunities such as aerospace applications. The project anticipates that the first viable commercial products will be for niche markets that place a premium on energy density, which will subsequently stimulate others (including automotive). Alongside the research partners, the consortium’s industry partners have the capability to fast-track research to higher technology readiness levels and efficiently provide proof-of-concept manufacture of the new developments.

An optical microscope image showing the formation of Li-metal dendrites during Li-S cell cycling captured by Faraday Institution Research Fellow Rhodri Owen, UCL

An optical microscope image showing the formation of Li-metal dendrites during Li-S cell cycling captured by Faraday Institution Research Fellow Rhodri Owen, UCL

In January 2023, OXLiD was awarded a Faraday Battery Challenge Round 5 project to accelerate the development, scale-up and commercialisation of quasi-solid-state lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries. The project builds on significant progress made by the Faraday Institution LiSTAR project and commercialisation team, and involves project partners at the University of Nottingham, University College London, William Blythe, WAE, Exawatt, Emerson and Renwick, and Infineum UK.

Project funding
£12.9 m
1 October 2019 – 30 September 2025

Principal Investigator
Professor Paul Shearing
University of Oxford

Paul Shearing

 

Project Leaders
Dr James Robinson
University College London

Project Manager 
John Hooper
University College London

University Partners
University of Oxford (Lead)
University College London
University of Cambridge
Coventry University
Cranfield University
University of Birmingham
Imperial College London
University of Nottingham
University of Oxford
University of Southampton
University of Surrey

Research Organisations, Facilities and Institutes
Aerospace Technology Institute
National Physical Laboratory
+ 5 Industry Partners

 

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