A flexible lithium-ion battery designed by a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and built to operate under extreme conditions—including cutting, submersion, and simulated ballistic impact—can now add fire resistance its résumé.
Current Li-ion batteries are susceptible to catastrophic fire and explosion incidents—most of which arrive without any discernible warning—because they are built with flammable and combustible materials. Samsung Galaxy Note7 phones were banned from airlines as a result of this danger, and the Navy’s prohibition of e-cigarettes on ships and submarines is a direct response to the need to reduce the flammability of such devices.
With these batteries emerging as the energy storage vehicle of choice for portable electronics, electric vehicles, and grid storage, these safety advancements mark a significant step forward in transforming the way Li-ion batteries are manufactured and used in electronic devices.
In research published recently in the journal Chemical Communications, the team, led by Konstantinos Gerasopoulos of APL’s Research and Exploratory Development Department, details its latest discovery: a new class of “water-in-salt” and “water-in-bisalt” electrolytes—referred to as WiS and WiBS, respectively—that, when incorporated in a polymer matrix, reduces water activity and elevates the battery’s energy capabilities and life cycle while ridding it of the flammable, toxic, and highly reactive solvents present in current Li-ion batteries. It’s a safe, powerful alternative, the researchers say. A video shows the battery maintaining voltage output while being partially consumed by a flame torch.
Additionally, the damage tolerance initially demonstrated with the team’s flexible battery in 2017 is further improved in this new approach to creating Li-ion batteries. With this latest benchmark reached, the researchers continue to work on further advancements of this technology.
>> An earlier version of this article was originally published on our sister site, Power Electronic News: “Scientists develop lithium-ion battery that won’t catch fire.”