Rechargeable lithium metal batteries double in power

New battery will make your phone last twice as long- and it’s coming next year

SolidEnergy, a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has demonstrated a new rechargeable type of battery called a lithium metal battery.

It is kind of the holy grail for batteries. It's always been known that lithium-metal batteries offer higher energy densities, but their volatility makes them problematic.

New lithium metal batteries could make smartphones, drones, and electric cars last twice as long.

Lithium-ion batteries, which are found in the preponderance of today's cell phones and electric vehicles, use a variety of lithium-oxide compounds for the cathode, and a non-lithium material (usually graphite) for the anode. Qichao Hu, SolidEnergy's founder, first showed a prototype last fall that is half the size of an iPhone 6 battery and offers more battery life per charge. The super-charged batteries can power a range of products including drones, watches, wearables and electric cars.

Specifically, Hu points to the high-altitude drones and balloons being developed to provide Wi-Fi in remote areas. "It's a very exciting and noble application".

The days of scrabbling around for a phone charger might be over with an invention from SolidEnergy, a start-up which claims to have revolutionized battery technology for mobile devices. Mainly, it is better than the current technology of batteries and can maintain an energy density of 400 Watt Hours Per Kilogram (Wh/kg), it is non-flammable, and can be manufactured inside existing factories. Until now, though, efforts to create a rechargeable version have been unsuccessful - the anode material tends to break down over time, quickly rendering them unusable. But the problem has been the increased resistance and dendrite filaments that form on the battery's anodes, a problem that causes a battery to overheat and eventually short-circuit. Despite making the battery half the size and half the weight, it will travel the same distance.

But there was still a major setback: The battery only worked at 80 degrees Celsius or higher.

So Hu developed a solid and liquid hybrid electrolyte solution. "They had a nice facility to build batteries and they basically taught me how to build them", Hu says. He coated the lithium metal foil with a thin solid electrolyte that doesn't need to be heated to function.

The end result was a battery with energy-capacity perks of lithium metal batteries, but with the safety and longevity features of lithium ion batteries that can operate at room temperature.

"Combining the solid coating and new high-efficiency ionic liquid materials was the basis for SolidEnergy on the technology side".

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