Battery protection: This micrograph shows a powdery material that has a
nanostructure (far right) that improves its conductivity.

ENERGY NEWS

Battery Material Prevents Fires, Stores Five Times the Energy

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a solid electrolyte to replace flammable ones used in lithium-ion batteries.

By Kevin Bullis on January 25, 2013

An electrolyte developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could enable lithium-ion batteries that store five to 10 times more energy and are safer than the ones that recently caught fire on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

While the cause of the Boeing fire hasn’t yet been determined, Boeing could have reduced the risk of fire by choosing a safer electrode chemistry (see “Grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners Use Batteries Prone to Overheating”). But it would have had fewer options for the electrolyte—the material that allows current to flow through a battery. Lithium-ion batteries, even the ones that use relatively safe electrodes, still use flammable liquid electrolytes.

Solid electrolytes would be much safer, but it’s been difficult to make them conductive enough for use in batteries. The ORNL researchers, in work published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Chemistry Society, have an easy method for making a nanostructured form of one solid electrolyte. The nanostructure improves the material’s conductivity 1,000 times, enough to make it useful in lithium-ion batteries. The researchers also showed that the new material is compatible with high-energy electrodes.

Read more: Solid Electrolyte Enables Higher Energy Lithium-ion Batteries and Prevents Fires | MIT Technology Review.

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