Beyond lithium-ion: Researchers reveal a safer, longer-lasting, solid-state battery alternative

Researchers have patented the solid-state batteries. The next step is finding battery makers to manufacture them.

One of the inventors of the lithium-ion battery used by laptops, phones, and tablets has announced the next generation of battery technology: a solid-state battery that offers three times the energy density of today’s batteries and is safer to boot.

John Goodenough, the Fermi award winner who identified the lithium cobalt oxide material that forms the cathode used in today’s Li-ion batteries, teamed up with Maria Helena Braga to develop a battery that uses solid glass as an electrolyte. (It’s not the first solid-state battery, however; Samsung and MIT collaborated on a competing solid-state battery technology last year.)

Researchers say that solid-state batteries solve several problems, including safety. Samsung, for example, was forced to recall its entire Galaxy Note7 smartphone lineup because of battery fires, which the company blamed on third-party battery suppliers. In the case of the Note7 and other incidents, the fires were caused by short circuits, which caused the battery to overheat and in some cases explode.

One of the causes of short circuits is something known as “dendrites,” metal whiskers that can spontaneously form and poke through the electrolyte barrier separating the battery’s cathode and anode. (In Samsung’s case, it appears that other manufacturing defects were at fault, however, and not dendrites.) Goodenough and Braga claim that the glass electrolyte their solid-state batteries use prevents these dendrites from forming.

Based upon tests, it also appears that the solid-state batteries may have an energy density close to three times that of conventional Li-ion batteries. That’s important, as a solid-state battery would theoretically be able to store three times as much power as a Li-ion battery of the same volume. The researchers claim that the cells can be charged and then run down more than 1,200 cycles with low cell resistance. The cells will operate at temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit, they said.

(One question that hasn’t been answered is what the capacity is after the solid-state cells have been run down; this exceedingly deep dive into lithium-ion battery life by Cadex concluded that lithium-ion battery capacity could drop to 73 percent after 250 full discharge cycles.)

Goodenough and Braga also said that a glass electrolyte, made with sodium, should be more environmentally friendly than the lithium used in today’s cells. The glass electrolytes will also allow manufacturers to plate and strip alkali metals on both the cathode and the anode side, which will simplify manufacturing. The next step? Finding a company to make them.

Why this matters: To replace today’s lithium-ion batteries solid-state batteries need to tick off all the boxes. Consumers value safety, but they won’t be happy if their phones and tablets get less battery life than they did before. Goodenough, Braga, and their team of researchers seem to have accomplished this, offering hope that the agonizingly slow pace of battery development will amount to a big leap.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Batteries

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

PC World Evaluation Team Review - MSI GT75 TITAN

"I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it."

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?