Flexable battery concept (via Prof. Lee Sang-young)
Lithium-ion batteries have come a long way as a leading form of rechargeable batteries. With one of the highest energy densities, non-existent memory effects, and lightweight, varyingly shaped materials, these batteries are one of the most common energy sources for consumer electronics. Their impact can be seen in the advancement of our smartphones, now equipped with growing LED screen sizes, thinner and lighter bodies, and of course, more energy efficient batteries. Of course, this hasn’t affected the flexibility of the materials used for the construction of smartphones and other high-res displays - until now.
Scientists over at South Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have recently developed a novel polymer electrolyte, which might revolutionize the malleability of our lithium-ion powered devices. Lithium-ion batteries are typically constructed using a pure lithium metal oxide as the positive electrode (cathode) and graphite serving as the negative electrode (anode). A liquefied electrolyte in between the electrodes then allows the electric current to remain intact in-between the chemically reactive cathode and anode. The downside of having a liquefied electrolyte has been that they are encased in an inflexible square material, which is prone to damage by high temperature and stress. However, these new batteries are created using a polymer electrolyte, which is solid rather than liquid; and, they are constructed in record time by merely exposing the polymer to ultraviolet radiation for a period of about 30 seconds. The solidity of this polymer electrolyte not only improves the flexibility of the lithium-ion battery, but also improves its safety and stability by withstanding higher temperatures and stresses.
The significance of this discovery is self-evident in the way we think about battery construction. The limiting factor of unbendable material is removed leading to a greater likelihood of seeing more flexible smartphones and displays that’ll compete with Samsung’s foldable OLED. For now, the lithium-ion battery has received a considerable upgrade to its already well-touted performance.