SolidEnergy’s lithium-metal battery that allegedly holds a longer charge than the Apple iPhone 6 battery (via MIT)
Although we’ve heard it before, another company claims to have finally made a functional lithium-ion battery that lasts twice as long. The company SolidEnergy, which is a spinoff of MIT, claims to have made a new and improved battery for mobile devices that not only holds a long charge, but also won’t explode in your pocket. Proceed with caution.
Designing longer lasting batteries isn’t a novel idea. In fact, many have been trying to perfect a longer lasting lithium-ion battery for years now, to no avail. While swapping out the graphite electrode material in mass manufactured lithium-ion batteries for a thin sheet of lithium-metal foil should ideologically store more lithium ions, and thus more juice, it leads to the formation of dendrites, which can cause short circuits, intense heat and on occasion, explosions. Current technology also steadily decreases the battery’s ability to hold a charge, as the lithium-metal foil traps electrodes. While we’re skeptical, SolidEnergy claims to have discovered the solution.
Previous experiments have shown that common liquid electrolytes in lithium ion batteries tend to be more susceptible to explosions, so many tech companies have swapped them for solid ones that are less likely to blow up. Using a solid block of electrolytes, however, impedes battery performance. SolidEnergy, being the MIT prodigy that it is, put two and two together and decided the best option was to use both liquid and solid electrolytes. Thinking ahead, they also opted for a liquid electrolyte that wasn’t flammable.
SolidEnergy’s new batter thus combines existing electrolyte technology and also incorporates an additive that prevents the formation of dendrites and the reaction of lithium metal with the electrolytes. In theory, it should successfully hold double the charge of current technologies and sustain 80% of its total storage capacity over 300 charges. But when we can expect to see it utilized in the mass production of mobile devices is another topic.
While the prototype does work, that does not necessarily mean its is ready for mass production (if we’ve learned anything from Apple, it should wager on the safe side of this bet). Nonetheless, the three-year-old company announced plans to take the idea to market by 2016. Unfortunately for electric car owners, however, the technology isn’t viable for the enhancement of electric car batteries.
While it’s dubious that SolidEnergy will jump into the electric car battery market any time soon, a few other companies are trying to utilize lithium-metal electrode-powered batteries to enhance the performance of these green machines. According to Edmunds, the 2011 Nissan Leaf can drive 100 miles on a single charge. Fancier electric cars, like the Tesla, claim 245 miles per charge. While that’s great for local driving, you’d be hard pressed to find a suitable power source at a truck stop in Middle of Nowhere, America. If emerging tech companies can make the jump from prototype to mass production without emitting more greenhouse gases than they reverse, it’ll be a joyous moment for us all.
Maybe one day we will all enjoy cell phones that can last a whopping four days without needing a charge, but until then, carry your chargers folks. Or, check out these portable chargers that cost between $15 and $82 that are already on the market.
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