Chewing gum-like material makes lithium ion batteries safer

gummy lithium ion battery
© Washington State University

Lithium ion batteries have become the go-to energy source for almost all of our gadgets and they're also crucial to electric cars, airplanes and more. The reason for that is lithium ion batteries can store a large amount of energy while remaining a smaller size compared to other battery types, but they also have their drawbacks. The liquid electrolytes can leak if the battery is punctured or majorly damaged which causes a burn or fire hazard.

Manufacturers have safety measures in place, like temperature sensors and flame retardants that help prevent battery fires, but wouldn't it be better if there wasn't a risk in the first place?

Researchers at Washington State University have come up with a way to make these great energy storage devices a lot safer. They've developed a sticky, chewing gum-like material that replaces the liquid electrolyte. It conducts energy just as well as the liquid ones, but without the fire hazard.

It was designed with chewing gum in mind so that it could work as well as a liquid, but stick to the anode and cathode just like chewing gum to the bottom of your shoe, except the material created by graduate student Yu “Will” Wang is twice as sticky as gum.

Washington State University states, "The material, which is a hybrid of liquid and solid, contains liquid electrolyte material that is hanging on solid particles of wax or a similar material. Current can easily travel through the liquid parts of the electrolyte, but the solid particles act as a protective mechanism. If the material gets too hot, the solid melts and easily stops the electric conduction, preventing any fire hazard."

The gummy material is also flexible and pliable even standing up to smashing, stretching and twisting, which means it could fit right in to flexible electronics in the future.

Chewing gum-like material makes lithium ion batteries safer
Researchers have developed a gummy battery electrolyte that doesn't pose a fire hazard.

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