Gum to make lithium ion batteries a safer choice
While there are concerns regarding the safety of lithium ion batteries used from computers to airplanes, a chewing gum-like battery material holds promise for the future.
Researchers at Washington State University have developed a a gum-like lithium battery electrolyte that works as liquid electrolytes at conducting electricity but doesn't create a fire hazard.
"The biggest potential risk in high-performance lithium batteries comes from the electrolyte in the battery which is made of either a liquid or gel," explained Katie Zhong, Westinghouse distinguished professor in University's school of mechanical and materials engineering.
Electrolytes are the part of the battery that allow for the movement of ions between the anode and the cathode to create electricity.
The liquid acid solutions can leak and even create a fire or chemical burn hazard.
The researchers looked for a material that would work as well as liquid and could stay attached to the anode and cathode.
They designed the electrolyte model specifically with gum in mind.
It is twice as sticky as real gum and adheres very well to the other battery components.
"The material, which is a hybrid of liquid and solid, contains liquid electrolyte material that is hanging on solid particles of wax or a similar material," informed Zhong.
Current can easily travel through the liquid parts of the electrolyte, but the solid particles act as a protective mechanism.
"If the material gets too hot, the solid melts and easily stops the electric conduction, preventing any fire hazard," she added.
The electrolyte material is also flexible and lightweight, which could be useful in future flexible electronics.
You can stretch, smash and twist it, and it continues to conduct electricity nearly as well as liquid electrolytes.
Furthermore, the gummy electrolyte should be easy to assemble into current battery designs, said Zhong.
The researchers are working to combine their technologies into safer, flexible low-cost batteries, said the study published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.
(Posted on 04-02-2014)