Nanowires May Boost Fire-Resistant Capabilities of Lithium-ion Batteries

25 April 2018

As lithium-ion batteries have become ubiquitous in our smart devices, there have been instances where the batteries catch fire causing harm to people and property.

One of the most prominent cases of this happening was in 2016, when Samsung had to stop sales and shipments of its Galaxy Note 7 because the batteries were prone to failure. It got so bad that the U.S. Department of Transportation banned the phones from all U.S. aircraft labeling the devices as a “forbidden hazardous material.”

This wasn’t the only case of devices having issues as laptops, electric skateboards and more have had issues with batteries causing extreme heat or fire.

Since the problems started to arise, the research community has been actively searching for either a solution to the problem or an alternative that would work just as well as lithium-ion batteries but perform as well.

Now, scientists have developed a method that involves the addition of nanowires that enhances the performance of the battery’s fire-resistant capabilities but also other properties of the batteries.

In lithium-ion batteries, ions move back and forth between electrodes through an electrolyte, typically made of salts and organic solvents, but evaporate easily and can be a fire hazard. So researchers at the Zhejiang University of Technology are looking into the possibility of solid-state electrolytes as potential alternatives.

While several options have been proposed, most are not stable or can’t meet large-scale demand. As such, scientists have been looking at adding an array of compounds to enhance the electrolyte. Having previously used magnesium borate (Mg2B2O5) nanowires previously, researchers wondered if the good mechanical properties and conductivity would be a good fit if added to a solid-state polymer electrolyte.

The team mixed the solid-state electrolyte with 5, 10, 15 and 20 weighted percent of the Mg2B2O5 nanowires and found it increased the conductivity of the electrolytes and allowed them to sustain more stress compared to the electrolyte without nanowires.

The increase in conductivity was due to an increase in the number of ions moving through the electrolyte at a faster rate.

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