Researchers at Rensselaer have developed a patented method to use cheap and abundant paper biomass to make lithium-sulfur batteries.

A major by-product in the papermaking industry is lignosulfonate – a sulfonated carbon waste material, which is typically combusted on site, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere after sulfur has been captured for reuse.

According to NewElectronics, using this cheap and abundant paper biomass, a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute said they can build a rechargeable lithium-sulfur battery.

The team believes this could be used to power big data centres and provide a more affordable energy-storage option for microgrids and the electric grid.

Sulfur is nonconductive, but when combined with carbon at elevated temperatures this changes, allowing it to be used in battery technologies. The challenge is that sulfur can easily dissolve into a battery’s electrolyte, causing the electrodes on either side to deteriorate after only a few cycles.

The team explained that, so far, researchers have used different forms of carbon, like nanotubes and complex carbon foams, to confine the sulfur in place, but with limited success. “Our method provides a simple way to create an optimal sulfur-based cathode from a single raw material,” Simmons said.

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