This paper reports on the investigation of rate capability and cycle characteristics of a lithium sulfur battery. The second discharge region where solid Li2S is formed on the surface of the carbon matrix in the cathode was highly sensitive to cathode thickness and discharge rate. The scanning electron microscope (SEM) observation suggests that thick Li2S layer formed at the surface of the cathode causes the diminution of the second discharge region at high discharge rate. Upon repeated cycle, the delocalization of the surface Li2S layer happened, however, the irreversible Li2S gradually increased with cycle as evidence by (SEM) and wave dispersive spectroscopy measurements, causing capacity fade. The formation of the irreversible Li2S was more significant for higher rates of discharge. It is believed that the destruction of the carbon matrix by stress generated during the localized deposition of Li2S is responsible for the formation of irreversible Li2S. (C) 2003 The Electrochemical Society.