Sulfur/nickel ferrite composite as cathode with high-volumetric-capacity for lithium-sulfur battery

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  • ReceivedMar 28, 2018
  • AcceptedApr 29, 2018
  • PublishedJun 1, 2018


Low volumetric energy density is a bottleneck for the application of lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery. The low-density sulfur cooperated with the light-weight carbon substrate realizes electrochemical cycle stability, but leads to worse volumetric energy density. Here, nickel ferrite (NiFe2O4) nanofibers as novel substrate for sulfur not only anchor lithium polysulfides to enhance the cycle stability of sulfur cathode, but also contribute to the high volumetric capacity of the S/nickel ferrite composite. Specifically, the S/nickel ferrite composite presents an initial volumetric capacity of 1,281.7 mA h cm−3-composite at 0.1 C rate, 1.9 times higher than that of S/carbon nanotubes, due to the high tap density of the S/nickel ferrite composite.

Funded by

This work is financially supported from the New Energy Project for Electric Vehicles in National Key Research and Development Program(2016YFB0100200)

the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21573114,51502145)


This work is financially supported by the New Energy Project for Electric Vehicles in National Key Research and Development Program (2016YFB0100200) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21573114 and 51502145)

Interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Contributions statement

Zhang Z, and Gao XP conceived the idea. Zhang Z carried out the preparation and electrochemical tests of the composites. Zhou Z and Wu DH performed the computational experiments. Liu S and Li GR contributed to the impedance analysis. Zhang Z, and Gao XP co-wrote the paper. All the authors contributed to the general discussion.

Author information

Ze Zhang is a Lecturer in the School of Chemistry, Nanchang University. He received his BS degree in 2012 from the College of Chemistry, and PhD degree in 2017 from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nankai University of China. His general research interest is in the area of advanced functional materials for rechargeable batteries with a focus on the exploration of high-energy Li-S battery.

Xue-Ping Gao is a Professor in the Institute of New Energy Material Chemistry, Nankai University, China. He received his doctorate at the Department of Chemistry from Nankai University in 1995. He used to work as a visiting research fellow at Kogakuin University in Japan from 1997 to 1999. Currently, his main research focuses on energy storage materials for power sources, including Li-ion batteries, Li-S battery and solar rechargeable battery.


Supplementary information

Supporting data are available in the online version of the paper.


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  • Figure 1

    Preparation and characterization of the samples: (a) the schematic diagram of the structural formation and the preparation process, (b) XRD patterns of NiFe2O4 nanofibers and the S/NiFe2O4 composite, and (c) TG curve of the S/NiFe2O4 composite.

  • Figure 2

    XPS spectra: (a) Ni 2p, (b) Fe 2p and (c) O 1s of NiFe2O4 nanofibers; (d) O 1s and (e) S 2p of the S/NiFe2O4 composite; (f) S 2p of the S/CNT composite.

  • Figure 3

    Morphology features of the NiFe2O4 nanofibers and S/NiFe2O4 composite: TEM images of (a–c) NiFe2O4 nanofibers and (d) S/NiFe2O4 composite; (e) the TEM image recorded by the high angle annular dark field (HAADF) detector, and (f–i) the corresponding elemental mappings in the selected region of the S/NiFe2O4 composite.

  • Figure 4

    CVs of the (a) S/NiFe2O4 composite and (b) S/CNTcomposite with the potential range from 1.7 to 2.8 V (vs. Li/Li+) at the scan rate of 0.1 mV s−1; Comparison of the initial discharge/charge curve based on (c) gravimetric calculation and (d) volumetric calculation of the S/NiFe2O4 composite and S/CNT composite.

  • Figure 5

    The cycle stability in terms of (a) gravimetric capacity and (b) volumetric capacity at 0.1 C rate of S/NiFe2O4 and S/CNT composite.

  • Figure 6

    (a) The rate capability and (b) the initial discharge/charge curves of S/NiFe2O4 composite at various rates from 0.1 C to 2 C rate.

  • Figure 7

    Anchoring effect of polysulfide on spinel NiFe2O4 and CNTs: (a) UV-vis absorption spectra of 2 mmol L−1 Li2S8 solution (the inset shows the photos of sealed vials containing Li2S8 solutions before and after fully contacting with NiFe2O4 and CNTs); (b) the stable adsorption geometries of Li2S8 on both spinel NiFe2O4 and CNTs, and the atoms are marked in different colors: Li (pink), S (yellow), O (red), Ni (green), Fe (purple), C (grey); (c) the experimental quantities of Li2S8 adsorption; (d) the adsorption energy of Li2S8 on spinel NiFe2O4 and CNTs.

  • Figure 8

    EIS plots of the (a) S/NiFe2O4 and (b) S/CNT composites at full charged state at 0.1 C after different cycles. (c) EIS plots of the S/NiFe2O4 and S/CNT composites at the open circuit voltage and the used equivalent circuit to fit the experimental data.

  • Figure 9

    Cycle performance of S/MFe2O4 (M=Co, Mg, and Zn) composites at 0.1 C rate.

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