These Lithium Metal Batteries Have Double the Power

Fagjun | Published 2017-06-15 16:02

How powerful is your phone's battery?

Sick of having to recharge your devices every few hours? Check out the lithium metal batteries that can give your devices double the battery life they have now.

We all want our devices' battery to last longer, because having to charge batteries so often can be a pain. Right now, our devices use lithium ion batteries, which don't last that long. Lithium metal has proven to be longer-lasting and has powered devices in medicine, oil field industries, and even space exploration. However, we use lithium ion batteries in consumer electronics because they're safer, so we sacrifice energy efficiency for that safety.

Qichao Hu, an MIT alumnus, thus founded SolidEnergy Systems in 2012 to develop a longer-lasting lithium metal battery. SolidEnergy Systems demonstrated a prototype of the battery back in October 2015. The battery is able to power drones, smartphones, and even electric cars. It's a technological breakthrough that can open up new possibilities in electronics.

Innovations

Lithium ion vs lithium metal

However, as tech insiders would tell you, laboratory breakthroughs don't often work out here in the real world. Though scientists have known for a while that lithium metal batteries are more energy efficient, these batteries tended to explode. However, 2017 might just be year that we see these batteries hit the market and become commercially available.

Click here for Hu's paper on the lithium metal battery.

SolidEnergy Systems formulated a battery that utilizes a thin lithium metal foil instead of the traditional anode. An anode is an electrode through and out of which current flows. It has been nearly impossible to create lithium metal batteries since the lithium metal doesn't react well with the liquid electrolyte in the battery. This reaction can cause short circuits, overheating that can lead to combustion, and it also makes the batteries non-rechargeable.

Hu thus made a number of innovations to make functional lithium metal batteries possible. One of these innovations involves coating the lithium metal strip in a solid electrolyte that doesn't heat up. Hu also created a non-flammable liquid electrolyte. What he came up with, therefore, was a battery that had the power of a lithium metal battery, though with the safety of lithium ion.

Looking Forward to Lithium Metal Batteries

Will we soon say goodbye to charging our devices multiple times a day?

SolidEnergy Systems inherited their early manufacturing equipment from a now-closed battery startup called A123 Systems. This may have enabled SolidEnergy to avoid creating unsustainable manufacturing processes that have proven to be the downfall of other battery startups.

Thus, the company has a lot going for it, and so far looks promising. They projected that they will be able to develop lithium metal batteries for smartphones this year, and electric cars next year. This is certainly something that most, if not all, of us should look forward to.

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