Oak Ridge Scientists Work To Get The Liquid Out Of Rechargeable Batteries

Research at Oak Ridge National Lab could lead to a safer rechargeable battery, for everything from cellphones to electric cars. Scientists there say these batteries could be much more powerful, too. Lithium-ion batteries contain a small amount of liquid electrolyte.

Lithium thiophospate, as it looks under an electron microscope. Oak Ridge scientists are using this solid electrolyte in their experimental battery. Image: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Lithium thiophospate, as it looks under an electron microscope. Oak Ridge scientists are using this solid electrolyte in their experimental battery. Image: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

But sometimes, the electrolyte can make the battery explode or catch fire, as was the case on Boeing’s Dreamliner. Oak Ridge scientists say they can design a rechargeable battery that uses a special kind of solid lithium as an electrolyte. Dr. Chengdu Liang is leading the research:

“To make a safer, lightweight battery, we need the design at the beginning to have safety in mind,” said ORNL’s Chengdu Liang, who led the newly published study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. “We started with a conventional material that is highly stable in a battery system – in particular one that is compatible with a lithium metal anode.”

Liang says this kind of battery could be 10 times as powerful as those currently on the market. All-solid batteries open up new design possibilities for products, like electric cars. The battery could become part of the body instead of a bulky addition. Liang’s work is still in the lab phase. Working batteries with this kind of technology are years away.

Oak Ridge scientists aren’t the only ones working on new kinds of rechargeable batteries. Liang and his team will present their research in Boulder next month, at a conference called Beyond Lithium Ion.


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