Washington: Researchers have made a remarkable discovery that could pave way to built nonflammable lithium ion battery which will withstand high temperatures.
In studying a material that prevents marine life from sticking to the bottom of ships, researchers led by chemist Joseph DeSimone at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have identified a surprising replacement for the only inherently flammable component of today`s lithium-ion batteries: the electrolyte.
The work paves the way for developing a new generation lithium- ion battery that doesn`t spontaneously combust at high temperatures.
The discovery also has the potential to renew consumer confidence in a technology that has attracted significant concern-namely, after recent lithium battery fires in Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Tesla Model S vehicles.
"There is a big demand for these batteries and a huge demand to make them safer," DeSimone, Chancellor`s Eminent Professor of Chemistry in UNC`s College of Arts and Sciences and the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at N.C. State University and of Chemistry at UNC, said.
"Researchers have been looking to replace this electrolyte for years, but nobody had ever thought to use this material called perfluoropolyether, or PFPE, as the main electrolyte material in lithium-ion batteries before," he said.
The discovery began when DeSimone realized that PFPE, a material that he had been researching for the Office of Naval Research to prevent marine life from sticking to the bottom of ships, had a similar chemical structure to a polymeric electrolyte commonly studied for lithium-ion batteries.
PFPE is nothing new; it`s a polymer that has long been used as a heavy-duty lubricant to keep gears in industrial machinery running smoothly.
Going forward, the team will focus on optimizing electrolyte conductivity and improving battery cycling characteristics, which are necessary before the new material can be scaled up for use in commercial batteries.
If successful, a commercial battery can also be used in extremely cold environments, such as for aerospace and deep sea naval operations.
The research is set to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.