Samsung, MIT say their solid-state batteries could last a lifetime

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An engineer holds a Lithium-ion battery cell used in its backup battery

Credit: IDG News Service/James Niccolai

By eliminating liquid electrolytes, the batteries eliminate fire risk

Researchers have developed a new material for a basic battery component that they say will enable almost indefinite power storage.

The new material -- a solid electrolyte -- could not only increase battery life, but also storage capacity and safety, as liquid electrolytes are the leading cause of battery fires.

Today's common lithium-ion batteries use a liquid electrolyte -- an organic solvent that has been responsible for overheating and fires in cars, commercial airliners and cell phones.

With a solid electrolyte, there's no safety problem.

"You could throw it against the wall, drive a nail through it — there's nothing there to burn," said Gerbrand Ceder, a professor of materials science and engineering at MIT and one of the main researchers.

Additionally, with a solid-state electrolyte, there's virtually no degradation, meaning such batteries could last through "hundreds of thousands of cycles," Ceder added.

Organic electrolytes also have limited electrochemical stability, meaning they lose their ability to produce an electrical charge over time.

Along with MIT, scientists from the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, the University of California at San Diego and the University of Maryland conducted the research.

The researchers, who published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Materials, described the solid-state electrolytes as an improvement over today's lithium-ion batteries.

Electrolytes are one of three main components in a battery, the other two being the terminals -- the anode and the cathode.

A battery's electrolyte component separates the battery's positive cathode and negative anode terminals, and it allows the flow of ions between terminals. A chemical reaction takes place between the two terminals producing an electric current.

A past problem with solid electrolytes is that they could not conduct ions fast enough to be efficient energy producers. The MIT/Samsung team says it overcame that problem.

Another advantage of a solid-state lithium-ion battery is that it can perform under frigid temperatures.

Ceder said solid-state electrolytes could be "a real game-changer" creating "almost a perfect battery."

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