Qichao Hu, the CEO at MIT’s SolidEnergy Systems, invented a lithium-ion battery that will last twice as long but smaller by half.
This battery is a big deal in that it uses lithium-metal foil as the anode material, as opposed to the standard graphite, carbon, or silicone, and can be used in things like wearables, phones, cars, and even drones.
Hu overcame the struggles associated with lithium-ion batteries in the past, such as the fact that lithium metal batteries would only function at 80C. His new solid foil does not require such heating. Nonetheless, the battery itself will be able to withstand higher temperatures.
On top of that, Hu changed the liquid (called an electrolyte) that allows ions to travel from one battery compartment to the other by creating a mechanism to stop the undesirable reaction between lithium and the electrolyte.
Hu explained, “Combining the solid coating and new high-efficiency ionic liquid materials was the basis for SolidEnergy on the technology side.”
Lithium has been tricky to work with in designing batteries- that’s why scientists have been confounded on how to stop it from reducing the cycle life and sometimes rendering batteries nonrechargable.
It might not sound like lithium is a great choice for batteries, but it is generally more environmentally friendly and usually can be recharged because a chemical reaction can happen in both directions inside the battery- again and again and again.
Hu’s new battery allows more ions to fit onto the mental foil and therefore gain more energy density, allowing it to last longer. The first batteries of Hu’s kind will be released for drones this November. Hu’s batteries for smartphones and wearables will be delivered in early 2017 and electric cars in 2018.
Will Hu overcome Tesla’s contributions to the electric vehicle industry? We will see.