Scientists have developed a biologically inspired membrane that could increase the range from electric car batteries fivefold.

team from the University of Michigan used recycled Kevlar – the same material found in bulletproof vests – to create a network of nanofibres similar to a cell membrane. They then used this to fix fundamental issues with a next-generation battery type known as lithium-sulphur.

Until now, this type of battery’s cycle life – the number of times it can be charged and discharged – has been insufficient for commercial use in electric vehicles, despite their capacity benefits.

Lithium-sulphur batteries are capable of holding up to five times as much charge as the industry standard lithium-ion batteries, which are used in everything from smartphones to laptops.

However, the inherent instability of the cathodes of lithium-sulphur batteries, which undergo a 78pc change in size each charge cycle, mean they are wildly impractical for use in consumer electronics.

The groundbreaking potential of lithium-sulphur batteries mean research institutions around the world are rushing to try and make the technology viable, with previous breakthroughs focusing on the use of a flexible cathode.

Nicholas Kotov, a professor of chemical sciences and engineering at the university, who led the latest research, described the new design as “nearly perfect”, allowing the capacity and efficiency to approach the theoretical limits of lithium-sulphur batteries.

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