A “lithium-ion battery that does not catch fire” was developed by a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). It is a water-based lithium battery, according to the press release, designed to continue operating even in extreme conditions, for example underwater or following an impact or a gash.
Lithium-ion batteries have always been susceptible to sudden fires, events that arrive without substantially any warning, so much so that many smartphone manufacturers have had to withdraw their models. No significant steps have been taken in improving this aspect despite the fact that the battery sector, not only the lithium-ion ones, is one of the most active in the research field.
The new study, presented in Chemical Communications and carried out by a team led by Konstantinos Gerasopoulos, saw the use of a new class of electrolytes for the new battery which reduces water activity and increases the energy capacity of the battery as well as its life cycle. These electrolytes, incorporated in a polymer matrix, eliminate the problem of flammable solvents as well as highly reactive toxic solvents that can be present in current lithium-ion batteries.
“Our team’s efforts have generally focused on replacing the flammable liquid with a polymer that improves safety and form factor. We are excited about where we are today. Our recent paper shows improved usability and performance of water-based flexible polymer lithium-ion batteries that can be built and operated outdoors,” explains Gerasopoulos.
A prototype could be ready as early as this year, according to one of the APL managers Jeff Maranchi.