Design Engineering

UBC-led PICS project looks to create high energy density, solid state EV batteries

By DE Staff   

General Automotive Energy

Industrial by-product, tellurium, could hold the key to next-gen lithium sulphur battery design.

PhD candidate Yue Zhang (left) and principal investigator Jian Liu (right) examining a tellurium-based battery made at UBC. (Photo credit: The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions)

According to researchers with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), adding the element tellurium (Te) – an industrial by-product of copper and lead-zinc smelting – to the chemical make up of lithium-sulphur batteries could open the door to solid state EV batteries with doubled the energy capacity of lithium ion.

To investigate the feasibility of this battery design, PICS has established a three-year, CAD$180,000 project (Boosted Li-S Batteries for Zero-Emission Vehicles), led by institute partner, the University of British Columbia.

Graphical abstract of a solid-state lithium tellurium-sulfur battery (Photo credit: The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions)

According to the project’s principal investigator – UBC Okanagan assistant professor, Jian Liu – tellurium’s high electrical conductivity and volumetric properties could enable greater energy storage and faster charging and discharging. In addition, a solid state tellurium-based battery could be safer since it wouldn’t incorporate a flammable liquid electrolyte like conventional lithium-ion batteries.

While limitations exist, including tellurium’s tendency to expand and contract, Liu believes that problem can be overcome by creating a stable compound within the battery.


“People have been looking into sulphur batteries for many years, but it is challenging to commercialize because sulphur doesn’t transport electrons at all,” he says. “We are looking for a way to balance electronic conductivity with energy density as a way to make lithium-sulphur batteries viable.”

PICS’ EV battery project is supported by the Government of British Columbia, GLABAT Solid-State Battery Inc., Fenix Advanced Materials, Nature Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, National Research Council, Canada Foundation for Innovation, BC Knowledge Development Fund and Mitacs Accelerate Program.

PICS is a research collaboration, hosted and led by the University of Victoria, that also includes the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Northern British Columbia. It is funded by the Government of British Columbia’s CleanBC Go Electric program through the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation.


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