In a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Joule, Australia’s Deakin University researchers claim to have successfully used common industrial polymers to create solid electrolytes, which could enable the production of double-density solid state lithium-ion batteries that pose no risk of explosion upon overheating.
According to research fellows Dr. Fangfang Chen and Dr. Xiaoen Wang from Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials, their findings constitute “the first clear and useful example of liquid-free and efficient transportation of lithium-ion in the scientific community”.
Since the new technology is reliant on a solid polymer material, weakly bonded to the lithium-ion, rather than on the highly volatile liquid electrolyte used in batteries today, this could soon allow people to pack their battery-reliant devices in airplane baggage, and virtually eliminate the risk posed by electric cars to occupants and emergency services.
“Our findings suggest that next generation batteries will be much safer and have exceptionally better performance. From what we’ve discovered, this electrolyte will allow us to use a lithium metal anode, which could see future batteries last twice as long as they currently do with one charge. Alternatively, batteries could end up half of their size and weight without compromising performance time,” Dr. Wang said.
This is big news in the battery world, as finding ways to deploy lithium metal anodes has long been considered crucial for breaking the energy-density bottleneck of current lithium-ion chemistry, which could finally allow electric vehicles, aircraft and portable electronics to reach their full potential.
So far, the technology has been tested in a coin cell battery – similar to the batteries used in electronic watches – but the team is confident that scaling up to pouch-type batteries currently used to power smartphones (and beyond!) is not going to prove a very difficult task.
The reason for such confidence is the fact of the technology being produced from commercially available polymer materials which have been used as battery conductors for 50 years – just not in the way developed by Chen and Wang’s team.
“We have started the pouch cell fabrication and testing at Deakin’s word-class Battery Technology Research and Innovation Hub at Waurn Ponds. Once we achieve pouch size, we hope to attract collaboration with industry partners,” Dr. Wang said.
Sources: paper, deakin.edu.au, newatlas.com
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