MIT, Samsung Research Boosts Battery Capcacity With Solid Electrolyte

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Researchers demonstrated that a solid electrolyte can be used to solve many of the problems of today’s batteries

Scientists at MIT and Samsung say they have come up with a new way of engineering rechargeable batteries that could greatly improve capacity and prolong battery life by using solid materials instead of the liquid electrolytes typically found in today’s devices.

Their research, published in the journal Nature Materials, finds that an approach using solid materials could improve capacity by 20 to 30 percent, while such a battery could last through “hundreds of thousands of cycles”, according to MIT.

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With the dramatic expansion of mobile devices, including portable electronics such as smartphones, laptops and tablets, researchers have focused their efforts increasingly on ways to improve battery life and capacity.

Aside from usability issues, the question also involves the waste generated by batteries that have reached the end of their usable life, as well as safety issues illustrated by incidents of batteries overheating and catching fire.

MIT said the team of seven researchers is the first to demonstrate that solid materials can be used in a formulation that meets the needs of battery applications. They illustrated their findings with a class of materials known as superionic lithium-ion conductors, but the research could lead to even more effective materials, MIT said.

The research demonstrated that such solid materials are capable of carrying ions, or charged particles, from one electrode to the other fast enough for use in rechargeable batteries of the kind common today, MIT said.

“There was a view that solids cannot conduct fast enough,” said MIT visiting professor of materials science and engineering Gerbrand Ceder, one of the paper’s authors, in a statement. “That paradigm has been overthrown.”

No fire risk

He said the solid electrolyte would not be inflammable and would improve power density by 20 to 30 percent, resulting in a corresponding increase in the amount of time a battery of a given size could provide power to a device.

The electrolyte would also result in batteries that would perform better than today’s lithium-ion batteries in extreme cold, MIT said.

Ceder worked with MIT postdoc Yan Wang, MIT graduate student William Richards and postdoc Jae Chul Kim, Shyue Ping Ong at the University of California at San Diego, Yifei Mo at the University of Maryland, and Lincoln Miara at Samsung. The research is part of a collaboration between MIT and Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, focusing on clean energy materials development.

Another recent MIT research paper demonstrated a new type of electrode that could triple rechargeable battery life.

In March vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson said it would invest $15m in a US start-up whose technology could double rechargeable battery capacity.

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