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March/April 2019

New sulfur hosts for better sodium–sulfur batteries

Compiled by David Huang

Limited resources of lithium mean that lithium-based batteries will not be able to meet increasing energy-storage demands. Consequently, the price of Li is expected to skyrocket. Room-temperature sodium–sulfur (RT-Na/S) batteries are a promising alternative due to resource abundance (of both sodium and sulfur), non-toxicity, low cost and the high theoretical capacity of sulfur (1672 mAh g–1). But, the dissolution of polysulfides into the electrolyte during cycling causes a low reversible capacity and fast capacity fade. Now, researchers led by Shi-Zhang Qiao at the University of Adelaide have designed a new class of sulfur hosts for RT-Na/S batteries: nanometre-sized transition metal clusters decorated on hollow carbon nanospheres. These clusters are able to assist the immobilisation of sulfur and enhance the conductivity and activity of sulfur (Zhang B.-W., Sheng T., Wang Y.-X., Chou S., Davey K., Dou S.-X., Qiao S.Z. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2019, 58, 1484–8). They serve as electrocatalysts to quickly reduce polysulfides into short-chain sulfides, thus improving the electrochemical performance of RT-Na/S batteries. Among these sulfur hosts, iron-based clusters exhibited excellent cycling and rate performance for RT-Na/S batteries.

Compiled by David Huang MRACI CChem ( This section showcases the very best research carried out primarily in Australia. RACI members whose recent work has been published in high impact journals (e.g. Nature, J. Am. Chem. Soc., Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.) are encouraged to contribute general summaries, of no more than 200 words, and an image to David.

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