One of the many ways scientists hope to improve the performance of today’s lithium batteries is by swapping out some of the liquid components for solid ones. Known as solid-state batteries, these experimental devices could greatly extend the life of electric vehicles and mobile devices by significantly upping the energy density packed inside. Scientists at MIT are now reporting an exciting advance toward this future, demonstrating a new type of solid-state battery architecture that overcomes some limitations of current designs.
In a regular lithium battery, a liquid electrolyte serves as the medium through which the lithium ions travel back and forth between the anode and cathode as the battery is charged and discharged. One problem is that this liquid is highly volatile and can sometimes result in battery fires, like those that plagued Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone.
Replacing this liquid electrolyte for a solid material wouldn’t just make batteries safer and less prone to fires, it could also open up new possibilities for other key components of the battery. The anode in today’s lithium batteries is made from a mix of copper and graphite, but if it were made of pure lithium instead, it could break the “energy-density bottleneck of current Li-ion chemistry,” according to a recent study published in Trends in Chemistry.