Researchers develop non-flammable lithium ion batteries

Researchers at Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials have found a way to overcome the flammability of lithium-ion batteries.

Replacing the volatile liquid electrolyte with a solid polymer material would enable items powered by such batteries, including mobile phones, computers, and vehicles, to no longer be a fire risk.

Researchers Fangfang Chen and Xiaoen Wang noted that their breakthrough enables better performance of critical batteries.

“Our findings suggest that next generation batteries will be much safer and have exceptionally better performance. From what we’ve discovered, this electrolyte will allow us to use a lithium metal anode, which could see future batteries last twice as long as they currently do with one charge. Alternatively, batteries could end up half of their size and weight without compromising performance time,” said Wang.

Due to the utilisation of commercially available polymer materials, the technology could be adopted easily by battery manufacturers.

“All of the products that we’ve used to make this safer battery process already exist in the market. Polymers have been used as battery conductors for over 50 years, but we’re the first to use existing commercial polymer in an improved way,” said Wang.

The research has been tested on watch-battery sized samples, with the next step to scale up to batteries similar to those used in mobile phones.

“We have started the pouch cell fabrication and testing at Deakin’s word-class Battery Technology Research and Innovation Hub at Waurn Ponds. Once we achieve pouch size, we hope to attract collaboration with industry partners,” said Wang.

The research was recently published in the scientific journal Joule. The innovation focusses on the nature of the polymer, which enables movement of the lithium-ion.

“We’ve done this by weakly bonding the lithium ion with polymer, creating solid polymer electrolytes. We believe this is the first clear and useful example of liquid-free and efficient transportation of lithium-ion in the scientific community,” said Wang.