From smartphones to laptops, nearly all modern electronic gadgets are powered by rechargeable ‘Lithium-ion’ (Li-ion) batteries. But as essential as they are, Li-ion cells can often blow up due to a variety of (external or user-induced) factors.
Everyone knows about the infamous Galaxy Note 7 debacle, that eventually led to Samsung discontinuing its flagship phablet altogether. It may be the most well-known case highlighting the perils of Li-ion cells, but it’s certainly not the only one.
But thanks to a new technology being developed by the researchers at the University of Michigan, we may soon have rechargeable batteries that are safer and much more resistant to explosions, and other similar issues. Not just that, it could also lead to Li-ion batteries that have up to double the output of current cells, without any increased physical footprint.
Speaking to Digital Trends, Jeff Sakamoto, an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, said, “We have developed and demonstrated an effective approach to enable a new battery technology that uses a solid ceramic electrolyte instead of a liquid.”
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Sakamoto further added, “This ceramic is unique owing to its stability against lithium metal and high conductivity at room temperature. These two attributes enable the use of metallic lithium anodes, which could double the energy density compared to lithium-ion technology. Historically, lithium-ion performance has increased by a few percent per year over the last two decades. Moreover, lithium-ion performance is cresting at about 600 watt-hours per liter. This battery would enable a 100 percent improvement in energy density.”
When asked whether the new technology could reduce (or completely eliminate) the risks of battery explosions, Professor Sakamoto told Digital Trends that while it may make a “dramatic” difference, more research needs to be done in this area.
He said, “Our ceramic electrolyte is made at 1,000[-degrees] Celsius in air. It is not combustible. However, lithium metal is also reactive, but not flammable. We are conducting tests to quantify the safety of lithium metal-based batteries, and acknowledge that lithium metal may pose safety risks, too. “
This is indeed a step in the right direction, and with continued advancements in battery technology, unfortunate incidents such as the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco may soon become a thing of the past.