WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in electronic gadgets, but can sometimes have electrical shorts that can lead to explosions and fires.
- Engineers at the University of Illinois may have developed a material that can be used in batteries to negate this problem.
- The material can also possibly make batteries self-healing, “energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.”
Laptops, mobile phones, tablets — you probably have at least one gadget that runs on lithium-ion batteries. The problem with these batteries though, is that they’re notorious for developing electrical shorts, which can ignite a battery’s liquid electrolytes, leading to explosions and fires.
But there may soon be a solution.
Engineers from the University of Illinois have been working on an electrolyte that’s solid and polymer-based.
Current lithium-ion batteries go through many cycles of charge and discharge, forming tiny, branchlike structures of solid lithium known as dendrites. These dendrites can cause hotspots, electrical shorts, reduction of battery life, and even puncture the battery’s internal parts and lead to explosions due to the reactions between electrolyte liquids and electrodes.
The problem with other alternative solid materials that could replace the liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries is that they can have reduced conductivity because they’re rigid and brittle.
Study co-author Brian Jing said, “high-temperature conditions inside a battery can melt most polymers, again resulting in dendrites and failure.”
Previously produced solid electrolytes used a cross-linked network of polymer strands that formed a rubbery lithium conductor. Though this method delays dendrite growth, these polymers cannot recover or be healed after damage.
This is the strong advantage of the work of Jing and study lead author Christopher Evans.
The material they developed is a polymer whose cross-link points can undergo exchange reactions and swap polymer strands. This means that they are self-healing.
What’s more, the new polymer stiffens upon heating, additionally helping with the dendrite problem.
And where most other polymers are difficult to break down and recycle, needing high temperatures and strong acids, the material they developed “dissolves in water at room temperature, making it a very energy-efficient and environmentally friendly process.”
The researchers acknowledge that their material needs more work before being used in batteries, but the potential is definitely promising.
The new study is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Source: Good News Network