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.
via e! Science News
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