New Battery Tech Could Prevent Electronics Fires
January 16, 2016 Leave a comment
You may have heard about so-called “hoverboards” catching fire in recent months. They aren’t the only items prone to this problem, but they are the most newsworthy of late. Like many computers, phones, and other rechargeable technology, they rely on lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have been great for technology, making everyday items like iPhones rechargeable and therefore much more efficient. Unfortunately, in some rare cases, those batteries can overheat, the electrolyte within them can catch fire and sometimes trigger an explosion.
There have been a few attempts to make lithium-ion batteries safer, and by and large they don’t overheat and explode, but a team at Stanford University has developed a new system to keep those batteries from catching fire. They can’t keep them from overheating, that’s largely a matter of using them properly, but they can make them safe and keep them functional and efficient.
A quick science lesson: lithium-ion batteries work by sticking two electrodes in a electrolyte gel and sending charged particles between them. Over about 150 C (300 F), that gel can catch fire. This new system prevents that by shutting the battery down briefly when it reaches a certain temperature. Once the battery has cooled off enough, it kicks back on.
That’s because the electrodes in this system contain spiky particles of nickel, which conduct electricity if they’re touching. They are subsequently suspended in elastic polyethylene which expands when it gets too warm. Upon expanding, it pulls the spikes apart, and the battery shuts down, when it cools, they comes back together and conduct electricity once more.
The temperature threshold can be set, allowing thee battery to shut down at lower, even safer temperatures. This could prove to be a pretty valuable technology, significantly reducing battery fires and keeping them efficient enough to keep up with consumer demands. Don’t be surprised to hear more about these batteries in thee future.