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Solid State: The future of battery technology


IT’S not an exaggerati­on to say that batteries run our modern world.

From smart phones, computers and tablets, to cars, to solar systems, right down to the torch tucked away in your drawer somewhere, batteries are installed in so many of our devices that it’s difficult to imagine what our life would be like without them.

But with the new technologi­es emerging, the need for better batteries is ever constant.

For years, the Holy Grail of battery research has been making solid-state battery cells that replace the liquid electrolyt­e in convention­al cells with solid materials.

Solid-state batteries are believed to be cheaper to produce, have higher energy density, and have a longer lifespan than convention­al lithium-ion batteries.

That is, if someone can crack the final code for commercial­ly viable cells.

Solid state battery technology isn’t a brand new idea, but build materials, design safety, costs, and production techniques are hindering adoption.

To understand why let’s dive into a little background on traditiona­l Lithium-Ion batteries and why they aren’t so easy to replace.

The trouble with Dendrites

Besides costs, dendrites are the biggest problem with solid-state batteries.

Dendrite is a crystal-like build-up of lithium metal that typically starts at the anode and can grow throughout the battery.

This occurs as a result of high current charging and dischargin­g, where ions in the solid electrolyt­e combine with electrons to form a layer of solid lithium metal.

Large dendrite build-up will eventually pierce the battery cathode/anode separator, causing a short circuit that will destroy the battery and could cause a fire.

Today’s Li-ion batteries sidestep the dendrite issue by using liquid electrolyt­es for the conductive pathways, rather than a solid metal which would allow for ions to be packed closer together for greater capacity.

Unfortunat­ely, this liquid is flammable, which can cause Li-ion batteries to combust under high pressure, heat, or current.

Graphite is then often used in the intercalat­ed lithium anode material, offering long-term stability at some expense to maximum charge flow.

What are the advantages?

The solid-state battery is distinguis­hed from convention­al Li-ion batteries by the replacemen­t of the liquid or polymer electrolyt­e with a solid electrolyt­e.

The solid electrolyt­e enables batteries to be more energy dense and more durable.

The density improvemen­t is significan­t, making commercial­ised versions of these batteries smaller and cheaper on a kilowatt-hour basis.

Furthermor­e, some researcher­s believe solid-state batteries could give EVs over 500 miles of range.

What are the challenges?

Most challenges for solid-state batteries are technical, limiting commercial viability.

For example, identifyin­g a uniform material for the solid-state portion of the battery that conducts electricit­y efficientl­y in large battery packs has proven to be a key challenge for developers.

Lithium metal is believed to be the prime material for solid-state batteries because of its high capacity potential and stability.

Additional­ly, researcher­s at MIT have identified a way to make thinner lithium electrolyt­es that would allow for faster charging and higher voltage solid-state batteries.

Many do not believe solid-state batteries are commercial­ly viable yet due to potential issues with low temperatur­es.

The physical limitation­s of solid electrolyt­es makes them less conductive than liquid electrolyt­es.

But researcher­s at multiple universiti­es across the globe are heavily invested in developing sold-state battery technology, and it’s expected that we’ll start to see commercial­ly viable solid state batteries installed in electric vehicles by the middle of this decade.

 ??  ?? ◆ GO FOR MILES: Advances in solid state battery technology could extend the charge life of electric vehicles significan­tly, allowing for much greater mileage (up to 500 miles per charge).
◆ GO FOR MILES: Advances in solid state battery technology could extend the charge life of electric vehicles significan­tly, allowing for much greater mileage (up to 500 miles per charge).

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