The solid-state design might someday put way more power at our fingertips.
A new discovery could pave the way for batteries that last longer—and won’t explode.
The breakthrough comes from a team of engineers led by John Goodenough, the co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery used to power everything from smartphones to electric cars. The research, which was published in Energy & Environmental Science in December and publicized by the University of Texas last week, suggests a future "solid-state" battery design could potentially hold up to three times more energy and charge faster than today’s batteries.
The solid-state battery, which is still in the early stages of development, swaps out one of the essential parts of today’s lithium-ion design—liquid electrolytes—for glass components. The glass electrolytes can store more energy and are much more stable since they prevent the formation of dendrites—metallic projections that grow through liquid electrolyte layers and cause short circuits and explosions.
The researchers say the glass electrolytes could also allow them to exchange lithium for sodium, which would be a cheaper and more environmentally friendly option since it can be extracted from seawater. These batteries wouldn’t just be more powerful than what we have today—they’d be more economical, too.
The solid state batteries might also work in extreme conditions, down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit. This could be a massive breakthrough for car batteries, which obviously have to work through extreme weather.
This breakthrough sounds exciting—but it could still be a long way from coming to an iPhone near you. This was just preliminary research, similar to other solid state designs we’ve seen in the past, so there’s no timetable for when the batteries might actually be applied for practical use, if ever.
For now, the research team hopes to work with battery makers to turn their design into reality.