If you’ve kept track of the improvements experienced by mobile devices, one aspect that barely sees any is battery. There has also been a ton of new battery research and breakthroughs, but few, if any, ever make it to the consumer, due to cost and other factors. Finally, though, we may be seeing an improvement that will not only make it to the end user, the cost to manufacturers will not be great either.
Researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Rochester have managed to make a lithium-ion battery that not only doesn’t catch fire, but also hardens on impact. More importantly, this is achieved by making a very small modification to the standard lithium-ion battery. The researchers will be presenting their findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
In a normal lithium-ion battery, the two electrodes inside are separated by a thin piece of plastic. If the piece of plastic fails to serve its purpose due to impact, the two electrodes come into contact with each other and start a fire. And if previous experiences tell us anything, the plastic often enough to be a safety hazard.
But researchers found that replacing the plastic with a non-Newtonian fluid (liquids that harden when force is applied to it) is a more effective way of keeping the two electrodes separate. The researchers got inspiration from oobleck, the result of mixing cornstarch with water, and made a silica-based non-Newtonian fluid to be used in lithium-ion batteries instead.