Researchers have tackled the safety concerns surrounding lithium batteries by developing a groundbreaking solution that integrates fire extinguishing capabilities directly into the battery cells. While lithium batteries have revolutionized technology, powering devices like smartphones, electric cars, and laptops, their potential for catastrophic fires has raised alarm. The surge in incidents, including over 200 recorded in New York City alone in 2022, highlights the need for enhanced safety measures.

Traditional lithium batteries, when mishandled or damaged, can lead to fiery explosions with devastating consequences. Recognizing this issue, a team from Clemson University and Hunan University has introduced a new rechargeable lithium battery design. The innovation involves replacing the standard, highly combustible electrolyte fluid with a modified version of 3M’s Novec 7300 non-flammable heat transfer fluid, commonly found in fire extinguishers.

The electrolyte in a battery allows lithium ions to move across a separator, facilitating the electric charge transfer between positive and negative terminals. By utilizing a fire-extinguishing fluid as the electrolyte, the researchers have created a battery capable of suppressing its own fire. The modified electrolyte demonstrated exceptional performance in both lithium and potassium-ion batteries, resisting ignition even when subjected to external forces like nails.

This self-extinguishing electrolyte solution exhibited versatility in temperature tolerance, functioning effectively between -100 to 175 °F (-75 to 80 °C). It outperformed conventional electrolytes, demonstrating resilience in extreme hot and cold conditions and maintaining battery capacity over an increased number of charge cycles.

One of the notable advantages of this breakthrough is its ease of integration into existing battery production lines. The researchers emphasized that the alternative electrolyte shares similar physical properties with current electrolytes, making it readily adaptable for widespread use in lithium-ion battery facilities. This potential scalability presents an opportunity for the industry to adopt nonflammable batteries without significant manufacturing overhauls. The innovation marks a crucial step forward in addressing safety concerns associated with lithium batteries, offering a promising path for enhanced consumer safety and the broader application of lithium-ion technology.

By Impact Lab