New high-density lithium battery prototype loves heat, won't explode
If it seems like there's a new battery technology in the news every week or so lately, that's because a ton of research money that's been spent over the past five or ten years is starting to bear fruit. A huge part of our future is electric; that much is clear, and there's room for a bunch of different technologies to move things forward from the status quo, each with its own strengths.
Australia's Deakin University established an entire battery research and development hub back in 2016, dedicated squarely to the advancement of energy storage technology, called BatTRI-Hub. And today, BatTRI-Hub announced it has built a prototype lithium metal battery with some very interesting properties.
The cell in question – a 1Ah flat pouch cell – uses a lithium metal anode, prized for their ability to deliver up to 50 percent more energy storage than today's cells. But it also uses an ionic liquid electrolyte – a salt that's in a liquid form at room temperature, which has several advantages over current mainstream tech.
“Ionic liquids are non-volatile and resistant to catching fire," says Professor Patrick Howlett, director of the research hub, "meaning that unlike the electrolytes currently used in lithium-ion cells used by, for example Samsung and Tesla, they won’t explode. Not only that, but they actually perform better when they heat up, so there’s no need for expensive and cumbersome cooling systems to stop the batteries from overheating.”
That could lead, in theory, to a battery that prefers being charged and discharged at high rates – the opposite of how we're told to look after today's lithium batteries. A battery that heats up might be less useful for hand-held devices or laptops that might start to fry your lap, but it could be terrific in certain types of electric vehicle, where heat evacuation is a major problem. Mind you, if it works best at high temperatures, you have to wonder how well it handles the kinds of cold you can get in places that get a proper winter.
It seems it'll get a chance to prove itself. “The use of lithium metal electrodes in lithium metal batteries isn’t common in the battery industry, so there’s little known about the best way to manufacture these cells at practical levels for demonstration,” says research fellow Dr. Robert Kerr, lead on this project. “After years of painstaking attention to manufacturing processes and details, the team has achieved a benchmark level that’s sure to make everyone in the industry sit up and take notice. While this is just a stepping stone on the way to 1.7 Ah cells, which are soon to be in production, this is an important milestone in the battery world for the demonstration of a new technology.”
Source: Deakin BatTRI-Hub