Concrete builds the foundation of the modern world today, but what drives the future of technology based on that concrete is lithium-ion batteries. Battery technology is the lifeline of most chargeable electric devices, from phones that fit in the palm of your hand to the electric car your family sits in. However, lithium-ion batteries are like concrete - they are the wild children of nature molded by human hands, full of problems that are difficult to solve.
Lithium-ion battery technology is based on toxic, flammable materials, so just a little breakdown, electrical equipment, no matter how small, will turn into a bomb with considerable destructive power. However, we believe that science just hasn't found a safe solution.
This type of battery is safe even when cut, bent.
Physicists at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) also share that belief. For the past 5 years they've been trying to redesign the li-ion battery, in order to find a safe battery that is near absolute level. In 2017, they announced new battery technology - a product made in partnership with the University of Maryland: a battery that is safe even when cut, bent, bumped, or immersed in water. .
Late last year, the team at Johns Hopkins lab pushed the limit further, making a fire-proof battery and having the same voltage as the existing battery on the market.
To get to the 'immortal' state (immortal in a way that can withstand damage but still age), the battery must possess a truly efficient layer of electrolyte; If you don't know, electrolyte is the separator for the positive and negative pole of a battery. When you use a li-ion battery, charged lithium particles run through a diaphragm in the electrolyte, travels from the cathode to the anode, and undergoes chemical reactions to generate energy.
Most electrolytes in li-ion batteries use a mixture of flammable lithium salts and toxic solutions; Jeff Maranchi, head of material science research at APL, calls it a 'recipe for disaster'. If this thin wall is punctured, the battery will short-circuit, a chemical reaction occurs inside which will cause the battery's battery temperature to rise dramatically. And when heat finds its way to the flammable electrolyte placed next to an oxygen-rich cathode, you'll get yourself a 'little fire '.
APL new battery burning test.
Water-based batteries can avoid such a tragedy, with electrolytes whose main component of water will be both non-toxic and non-flammable. But 25 years ago, science has not been able to apply this weak battery. However, the APL team finally found a solution: they increased the amount of lithium salts in the electrolyte compound, mixed it with polymer resins, and were able to increase the voltage from 1.2 volts to up to 4 volts, equivalent to current li-ion batteries.
When Konstantinos Gerasopoulos, a senior researcher at APL and research leader, found a way to attach existing cathodes and anodes with the new electrolyte, they created a unique battery. It is transparent and flexible like contact lenses, neither toxic nor flammable, can be produced and operated in the environment without being put in a sealed container. Most especially, life has thrown it out like, the battery is still unharmed.
APL's breakthrough battery technology.
In the test, the team put the battery in salt water, chopped the battery with scissors, created a strong impact on the battery surface, burned it but the battery did not give in, it continued to demonstrate the ability to store electricity and discharge. Electricity efficiency by yourself. After being baked, the researchers cut off the scorched part, then witnessed the battery continue to operate normally for another 100 hours.
The new water battery technology is not just a test product, the APL team says it has partnered with another manufacturer, which will soon apply the new technology to existing lithium-ion batteries; The old and new combination process will not see much back. Most likely, this technology will appear within the next 2 years, and will take electronics to a new level.
Because of its flexibility, the new battery technology will have a lot of use at the wearable electronics manufacturers, even if we will have smart clothes in the future. Resistance to impact, fire and immersion in water will make this 'water battery' suitable for military technology or the science of exploring the deep sea or the infinite Universe.
Currently, there are still some technological obstacles such as the charging and discharging ring of the battery is still low. Smartphone batteries currently have a charge and discharge cycle of about 1,000 times, but APL's battery has only reached 100 times. According to Professor Konstantinos Gerasopoulos, adjusting the chemical composition of the electrolyte will solve this problem.
If all goes well, the era of explosive battery-powered electronics will end within the next 2 years.