Moving away from the liquid: Sustainability implications of all-solid-state battery technology

Main Presenter: Burak Sen 

Co-Authors: Ahsen Akbulut Abdulkadir Kizilaslan Mahmud Tokur Beytullah Eren Murat Kucukvar Nuri Cihat Onat Hatem Akbulut

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have been the choice of battery technology employed in most electric vehicles (EVs) available today. However, recent studies have pointed out that the LIB technology slowly approaches its practical and theoretical specific energy limits. This impedes their capability to sustainably satisfy the growing demand from EVs. Hence, researchers have turned to develop new battery chemistries that will outperform Li-ion intercalation. Among emerging battery technologies, lithium-sulfur (LIS) battery technology is the most promising option given their higher theoretical energy density, cost-effective production, and more sustainable profile relative to LIBs. The great majority of the studies on LIS battery technology have focused on electrochemical and physical characteristics. Hence, as a complimentary expansion of such studies, sustainability implications of LIS battery technology must be concurrently investigated for reasons as to (i) provide sustainability feedback with technical experts that develop this technology, (ii) develop sustainability strategies for relevant industries that will adopt this technology, and (iii) develop policies for sustainable transformation of the transportation sector.

Only a handful of studies examined the potential environmental impacts of LIS battery technology. The existing studies provided significant insights into the potential environmental impacts of LIS battery technology (Deng et al., 2017; Benveniste et al., 2019). These studies only focused on the LIS battery technology based on liquid electrolytes. However, the use of liquid electrolytes still causes poor cycling performance, and potentially, safety concerns for a wider adoption of this technology (Ding et al, 2020). On the other hand, LIS battery based on nonflammable solid electrolytes can improve battery safety and boost the energy density. To that end, this study investigates the sustainability implications of an all-solid-state LIS battery through a cradle-to-gate process-based life cycle assessment model. The developed battery uses Li7P3S11 as the solid electrolyte, graphene sulfur composite (GSC) as the cathode, and lithium the anode.

The preliminary results – the results obtained as of January 31, 2022 – show that the manufacturing of an all-solid-state LIS (ASLIS) battery cell requires the supply of 9.7 MJ primary energy and has the global warming potential of 0.627 kg CO2-eq. Though the results are comparable with those of Benveniste et al. (2019), they significantly vary with those of Zhang et al. (2022), who quantified and reported on the impacts of ASLIB. The hotspot analysis reveal that the energy intensive process of graphene oxide (GO) synthesis is the primary contributor to these differences.

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