Nanotech

A Lithium Ion battery. / Photo by: Kristoferb via Wikimedia Commons

 

Lithium batteries have been widely used to power electronic devices and different types of vehicles. But if the source of energy inside these batteries fails, the device or vehicle will be rendered useless. A team of researchers found a solution to this problem by using a salt-based polymer as the power source of the batteries.

Lithium is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal used in lithium batteries as the anode. Depending on the design and compounds in the batteries, a typical model usually produces voltages between 1.5 and 3.7 V. Like any other power sources, batteries can break, thus stopping a device or vehicle from functioning. This consequence is critical to patients who wear lithium-powered medical implants.

Dr. Yu Zhu, a professor of polymer science at the University of Akron, together with his colleagues, developed a new set of lithium batteries with components made of polymers. The solid polymer electrolyte film can be used to replace the liquid electrolyte in lithium batteries and lithium-ion batteries. The replacement of the electrolyte will improve their performance and safety.

“A solid electrolyte has long been thought for lithium-ion batteries due to its nonflammable property and high mechanical strength that may mitigate the disaster caused by battery failure,” explained Dr. Zhu.

While the use of solid electrolytes has been done before, it is not widely applied because of certain disadvantages including low ionic conductivity and high interfacial resistance with electrodes. So, the research team demonstrated in their study that a dual salt-based solid electrolyte polymer overcomes the drawbacks.

The objective of their study is to successfully build a solid polymer electrolyte capable of powering bigger devices or even electric vehicles. Right now, they have formed the Akron PolyEnergy to further develop the new material to produce larger prototypes for commercial use.