The flammability of lithium-ion batteries has become quite a major concern, especially when a number of accidents over the past year made the news agencies explode. When the Tesla Model S and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught fire, researchers turned their focus towards developing safer technologies.
A number of advances are already being made in the field, including the development of new electrolytes, either solid or liquid containing solid particles, but the latest from University of North Carolina, might really bring lithium-ion battery fires to an end.
The team of researchers came across the miracle compound while conducting an entirely different research on substances that could prevent sea animals from attaching to boats and ships. The scientists found that the chemical perfluoropolyether (PFPE) has the ability to mix with the electrolyte inside the lithium-ion battery, while maintaining its non-flammability. Unlike traditional batteries where the electrolyte begins degrading at 34º C, PFPE maintains its stability at temperatures even higher than 200º C.
Safety is of course extremely important, but besides that, the battery has to function well too. PFPE was found not to affect the quality of the energy storage device, and actually performed better than most other solvents. The secret was hidden in the fact that the current is carried in the cation, which could extend the battery life and improve its performance. Probably the only downside of the new technology is the low conductivity, but the developers are convinced that this disadvantage can be compensated for.
The research is still ongoing, and there are quite a number of tests that still needs to be performed, however the potential of PFPE is huge, especially in the electric vehicle and energy industry, where temperatures are high, the cyclability should be exceptional, and the safety is of a huge importance.
Image (c) University of North Carolina