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Solid State Battery Technology

Posted on February 14th, 2017 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence

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Batteries have been in more headlines that many would have liked over the last twelve months. Samsung in particular have had a difficult time. But while recent events have focused attention on some of the shortcomings of current batteries, they’ve also got many of us looking to the future of battery technology.

The Limitations of Liquid

One of the most restrictive properties of current Lithium Ion batteries is the use of liquid electrolytes. While the materials used ensure that ions are able to easily move between electrodes, they’re highly volatile and mean that attention needs to be paid to the battery size, shape and packaging.

The liquids can become very unstable or burst into flame when there’s a short circuit and are often explosive when exposed to oxygen if the battery is pierced for some reason.

Mark Zimmerman, the founder of Ionic Materials, has been working on a more stable alternative for the last four years. In his demonstrations, he likes to shock onlookers by driving a nail straight through the battery his company has developed.

Of course, his battery is one which doesn’t burst into flame when pierced.

Solid Electrolytes Could Be The Answer

Ionic Materials are developing a “solid” Lithium polymer battery that is based on their solid polymer electrolyte which is the world’s first that works at room temperature. They believe they have developed the first solid with all of the necessary properties to replace liquid electrolytes currently used in battery technology.

The company was awarded a $3m development contract by the United States Department of Energy back in September, which was one of 16 awards aimed at solid battery technology development.

While still in development, Ionic Materials are hopeful of beginning manufacture of their solid lithium polymer batteries within the next two years. When released to market, this technology has the potential to tick all of the boxes for use in most of the consumer electronics products we use today.

It’s safer and more stable than current batteries because of the removal of the liquid electrolyte. The solid batteries also have a greater energy density and are cheaper to produce. The cost reduction is caused partly by the reduction in safety considerations and the impact they can have on design, but also because the units can be manufactured using efficient high-volume polymer processing techniques.

In a recent New York Times article Paul Albertus, a program manager at the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, commented on this technology and the pace of developments in battery technology as a whole. He said “We’re in a golden age of new chemistry development which probably hasn’t been seen in thirty or 40 years, since the last energy crisis… It’s a pretty exciting time to be developing energy storage technology.”

With the amount of innovation energy storage technology on show, I’d have to agree with him.


 

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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