New technology could prevent smartphone batteries from catching on fire
You don't have to think too hard for an example of lithium-ion batteries quickly catching on fire. Problems with such cells inside the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 resulted in several explosions, and forced two recalls of the phone, which was eventually pulled from the market. But some researchers have come up with a version of the lithium-ion battery that they claim will not catch on fire.
The typical lithium-ion cell has two electrodes separated by a thin piece of plastic. If that plastic fails for some reason, and the two electrodes touch, the liquid electrolyte in the cell can catch on fire. But mixing a silica additive into the electrolytes (see image at the top of this article) allows the liquid to become hard upon impact, thus preventing the electrodes from touching. This takes away the possibility of the battery catching on fire.
Gabriel Veith, Ph.D, one of the researchers working on the battery, says that the eventual goal is to create a lithium-ion battery that would continue to work even when part of the battery is damaged in an impact, causing some of the electrolytes inside the cell to harden. Eventually, this technology could end up inside lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones, helping to make them safer. The researchers, however, see this technology initially being used for Drone batteries.
The researchers publicly discussed their technology earlier today at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.