A type of battery first proposed in the 1960s is attracting a fresh surge of interest as scientists and engineers look for ways to extend the range of electric vehicles. The veteran system is the lithium–sulphur battery, now back in fashion as the limitations of expensive, low-capacity lithium-ion batteries become ever more apparent. Over the past two years, what was a trickle of publications has gathered into a wave (see ‘The lithium–sulphur charge’) as scientists wear down once-major stumbling blocks, and the area attracts more funding.

Chemists say that there is substance to the buzz. Although researchers are wary of over-stating the case, “we believe that lithium–sulphur is the way to go”, says Ilias Belharouak, a materials scientist who works on batteries at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. “There’s promise from many different labs — and some approaches really are working,” adds Linda Nazar, a chemist who studies lithium–sulphur batteries at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.