Researchers look to glass electrolytes for the future of energy storage
Scientists in the USA have developed a revolutionary new battery that could hold three times the charge of a standard lithium ion (Li-ion) battery. Based on solid glass electrolytes it has the potential to lead to safe, longer lasting, faster charging batteries.
Batteries are central to everyday life powering our phones, laptops and tablets. With the global shift towards electric cars and large-scale energy storage to support renewable energy, the need for batteries is ever increasing. In spite of this, battery technology is struggling to keep up. Modern batteries are big, have limited lifespans and have the occasional habit of setting themselves on fire.
Maria H. Braga at the University of Texas aims to overcome these issues with a unique solid-state battery cell that does away with the need for liquid electrolytes.
Braga began working on solid-glass electrolytes during her time at the University of Porto in Portugal. After moving to the University of Texas she teamed up with John B. Goodenough, the 94 year old co-inventor of the lithium ion battery, to develop the latest version of glass electrolytes that have shown incredible properties.
The differences between the new solid-state battery and traditional lithium ion batteries are subtle but important. Current Li-ion batteries transport lithium ions using liquid electrolytes between the negative anode and the positive cathode. This design has the drawback that if you charge it too fast, “metal whiskers” known as dendrites start to build a bridge through the liquid electrolytes. This can eventually lead to a short circuit and the potential for fires and even explosions.
This new battery technology has replaced the liquid electrolytes with ‘glass electrolytes’. These new glass electrolytes can use an alkali metal anode, which allows the energy density of the cathode to be increased, and improves the life cycle of the battery. The researchers managed to successfully demonstrate 1,200 charge and discharge cycles. Importantly, Braga showed that this new battery design avoids the buildup of harmful dendrites.
This breakthrough has led to a solid-state battery that is non-combustible, has a greater battery life, a high volumetric density and a faster ability to be charged and discharged. Good news for the electric car industry as it could allow for a much faster and more competitive refueling time.
“Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted.” Goodenough says in a University of Texas press release “We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries”
Professor Goodenough and Doctor Braga are currently continuing their research to improve upon these new types of batteries and are hoping to work with battery makers to further develop their technology in the automotive industry as well as in handheld technology.