These Lithium-ion Batteries That Can’t Catch Fire

Addition of powdered silica to the polymer layer that separates electrodes inside a test battery prevents lithium-ion battery fires.

Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in consumer electronics. However, when damaged or improperly packaged, these batteries can burst into flame, which may lead to severe consequences. To make these batteries safer, scientists have developed solid-state batteries as an alternative. But significant retooling of the current production process limits their potential commercial applications.

At the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Boston, MA, Gabriel Veith, Ph.D and his team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory reported that they recently developed a proof of concept electrolyte that can undergo solidification transition upon impact. The inspiration for this idea came from playing “oobleck” with his kids. His team mixed additives, such as silica, into the conventional electrolyte to create an impact-resistant electrolyte. Different from traditional electrodes that catch fire upon contacting, the modified electrolyte underwent rheological changes from liquid to solid. As a result, the battery doesn’t catch fire.

In the future, the team plans to enhance the system, so the damaged part of the battery would remain solid, while the rest of the battery would function as normal. Veith and his team also plan to make a bigger version of the battery that can stop a bullet. The battery functions as the soldiers’ armor with much less weight to carry. Their ultimate goal is to commercialize the battery in the automotive industry.

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