Innovate UK pumps funding into lithium sulfur battery R&D

March 24, 2015 // By Paul Buckley
Innovate UK, which sponsored by the UK's Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, is injecting £1.1 million into a consortium of UK companies and academic partners for the R&D of next generation lithium batteries for marine autonomous systems.

The consortium will be led by Steatite whose speciality is the design and manufacture of lithium battery pack solutions and will feature OXIS Energy Ltd wh will provide expertise realting to the main components which will be lithium sulfur batteries.  The collaboration will involve the underwater vehicle designers and manufacturers MSubs Ltd and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

OXIS Energy's OXIS lithium sulfur cells are ideally suited for use in subsea applications due to their increased specific energy, their mass density and high safety.

Li-S cells have five times the theoretical maximum specific energy of Lithium-ion cells. The mass density of lithium sulfur cells is similar to that of water. As a result, bulky and expensive buoyancy foam is not required for the lithium sulfur battery as it is with lithium polymer batteries in use today. The combination of both these factors allows for an improvement in the performance of a neutral buoyancy battery system. Through this project OXIS Energy would expect an improvement of at least 70% against the cells used in the best batteries on the market today with an expectation of achieving a five-fold improvement. The continuing development of a Li-S battery will enable greater endurance at higher speeds for transit to survey sites which are often in remote locations, resulting in fewer launches and recoveries, allowing more sensing equipment to be installed and will provide research institutions or end users the ability to collect more valuable data.

Lithium-ion batteries have safety issues which have been highlighted by fire-related incidents on Dreamliner 787 aircraft and electric vehicle fires. Li-S is a safe chemistry that does not react aggressively when damaged and continues to provide reliable function.  Li-S chemistry is claimed to be inherently safe, withstanding abuse such as short circuiting, crushing and even the puncturing of cells.

OXIS Energy CEO Huw Hampson-Jones said, "We are extremely proud of being at the forefront of developing Lithium Sulfur battery