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Graphene sheet-sulfur/carbon composite cathode for higher performance Li-sulfur batteries
Cycling performance of the GS-S/CZIF8-D composite and the unwrapped S/CZIF8-D composite. Chen et al. Click to enlarge.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Vasant Kumar at the University of Cambridge and Professor Renjie Chen at the Beijing Institute of Technology has devised a three-dimensional hierarchical sandwich-type graphene sheet-sulfur/carbon (GS-S/CZIF8-D) composite to address performance-related issues in Lithium-sulfur batteries such as low efficiency and capacity degradation.

The thin graphene sheet, wrapped around the sulfur/zeolitic imidazolate framework-8 derived carbon (S/CZIF8-D) composite, has excellent electrical conductivity and mechanical flexibility. This facilitates rapid electron transport and accommodates the changes in volume of the sulfur electrode. Compared with an unwrapped S/CZIF8-D sample, Li-S batteries with the GS-S/CZIF8-D composite cathode showed enhanced capacity, improved electrochemical stability up to 120 cycles, and relatively high Coulombic efficiency. An open access paper on the work is published in the journal APL Materials.

Schematic of the preparation of a 3-D hierarchically structured graphene-sulfur/carbonZIF8-D composite. Click to enlarge.

Lithium-sulfur batteries offer a theoretical specific energy densities approaching 2600 Wh kg−1 (by cell weight), compared to current Li-ion batteries at 130–220 Wh kg−1. In the near future, the researchers note, Li-S batteries are poised to attain both high gravimetric and volumetric energy densities beyond the values of 500 Wh kg−1 and 500 Wh l−1, respectively. Capable of achieving high power densities, a Li-S battery system is also highly tolerant against overcharging and does not suffer from memory effect.

For Li-S batteries, the foremost technical issue to overcome is poor S utilization and capacity to fade with cycling. Several reasons have been discussed in the literature for relatively poor active material utilization and cycle life. The dominant view involves parasitic loss of active S owing to the high solubility of intermediate long-chain polysulfide anions in the organic solvent and the resulting shuttle effect. Specifically, S is lost by dissolving in the solvent and further by shuttling away from the cathode and even more by reacting with the Li anode. The soluble components can move in both directions in different parts of cycling. The shuttle mechanism has been directly implicated as the cause for low S utilization following the initial discharge, which is exacerbated in subsequent charge-discharge cycle.

Other factors associated with S chemistry, such as its poor conductivity, incomplete reduction in some solvent systems, degradation of the S cathode by random precipitation of the discharge and charge products, and volume variations arising from significant density differences between S and the solid discharge products are also the barriers to superior electrochemical performance. Theoretically, the capacity of S is 1675 mAh g−1 as derived from the reduction of S8 to the most reduced state in Li2S. It is, therefore, not surprising that any approach which can minimize these problems can produce improved S utilization and cycle life.

—Chen et al.

One approach being explored by a number of research teams is utilizing porous carbon in the cathode with the intention of:

  • trapping polysulfide intermediate products by adsorption in the porous structure to prevent loss of active material and maintain cycling stability;

  • ensuring sufficient space for accommodating volume expansion during reactions; and

  • providing a large conductive surface area for electrochemical reactions and also allowing for deposition of insoluble products.

One potential choice of matrix for housing sulfur is micro/mesoporous carbons derived from carbonizing metal-organic frameworks (MOFs)—crystalline structures comprising metal clusters or ions coordinated to organic ligands in the form of highly porous spatial networks. However, the authors note, the capacity of MOF-derived microporous carbons is relatively low due to the sulfur/carbon composites having several interfaces and grain boundaries, leading to several amorphous and irregularly connected carbon networks. As a result, the internal resistance of the sulfur cathode is high as these interfaces act as scattering centers for electron transport.

Graphene, already shown to be effective when applied in other sulfur cathodes, can act as a “bridge” to form inter-connected networks, thereby reducing the internal resistances from each component. Therefore, hybridization of graphene and MOF-derived microporous carbons could be a promising method to further improve electrochemical performance of Li-S batteries, the team proposed.

To explore this possibility, the team prepared the microporous carbon host by a one-step pyrolysis of Zeolitic Imidazolate Framework-8 (ZIF-8), a typical zinc-containing metal organic framework (MOF), which offers a tunable porous structure into which electro-active sulfur was diffused. This was then wrapped with graphene.

The good cycle stability can be attributed to the synergistic effect of microporous carbon from ZIF-8 and the highly conductive graphene sheet. The improved capacity is attributed to the fast charge-transfer kinetics enabled by an inter-connected graphene network with its high electrical conductivity. The results show that the composite structure of porous scaffold with conductive connection can be a promising electrode structure design for rechargeable batteries.

—Chen et al.

In terms of applications, the novel battery design’s integration of energy storage with an ion/electron framework has opened the door for fabrication of high-performance non-topotactic (not involving a structural change to a crystalline solid) reactions-based energy storage systems.

The team will next focus on fabricating hybrid free-standing sulfur cathode systems to achieve high-energy density batteries, which will involve tailoring novel electrolyte components and building lithium protection layers to enhance the electrochemical performance of batteries, said Kai Xi, one of the Cambridge researchers.

This work was funded by the National Science Foundation of China (21373028), National 863 Program (2011AA11A256), and the EPSRC IAA Partnership Development Award (RG/75759).


  • Renjie Chen, Teng Zhao, Tian Tian, Shuai Cao, Paul R. Coxon, Kai Xi, David Fairen-Jimenez, R. Vasant Kumar and Anthony K. Cheetham (2014) “Graphene-wrapped sulfur/metal organic framework (MOF)-derived microporous carbon composite for lithium sulfur batteries,” APL Materials 2, 124109 doi: 10.1063/1.4901751



If they dont hurry with their miracle EV solution they will have all the time they need as gas plummets and people forget why they wanted an EV in the first place and all this knowledge becomes dust in some book.
Hydrogen production is my personal favorite but
we will see.
Is there a 200 or 300 mile per charge long lasting battery pack in the near future?


Come on China.

Show the world that you can mass produce 500-500 batteries for affordable 500+ Km extended range BEVs by 2020.

Improved 750-750 and 1000-1000 batteries for affordable 750 Km and 1000 Km extended rage BEVs can follow by 2025 and 2030 respectively.


I honestly don't care if there is a 500-500 battery in the next 10 years.  Seriously.

I'll take a 75-75 battery and a -40°C-+105°C sodium-ion pseudocapacitor for surge power.  If that battery could be packaged in the form factor used in my car, it would upgrade its range by about 50% at replacement time (probably 2018-2020).  A pseudocapacitor able to take or put out 300 Wh of energy in 8 seconds would make hybrids much better.  These two together would allow both hybrids and PHEVs to downsize sustainer engines by about half, slashing weight, cost and losses.

Everything needs to take into account marginal returns.  Once you've replaced 75% of motor fuel with electricity, you are probably better off hitting the next 15% with refuse-derived fuels to reach the 90% mark than trying to electrify the edge cases.


Not to worry. the oil companies are masters at manipulating the price of fuels. You will be paying through the nose again for auto fuel before you know it.

Russia, which is grossly dependent on the price of oil is feeling the effects of low oil prices and trying to shore up their currency. It's not working and the Russians have lost 50% of the ruble's value against the USD over the past few days. All this points out how unstable the World's economy really is while it's based on hydrocarbon energy.

The Better Battery is the key to not only a clean future; but, a stable economy and perhaps even Peace among Nations. If Sulfur or supercaps work, I don't care, just put it out there.


This is not all that impressive. Note that there is a delay in the decay with cycling, however the trend in the long term still has it go to the same low performance. It is very typical of these electrochemical systems. It doesn't really look like a solution, just a way to temporarily slow decay.

That said, the sulfur cathodes are coming and combined with the Si anodes which have progressed significantly and are very near commercial, and that battery cost and performance breakthrough will have arrived.

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