One of the holy grails of battery development is the creation of a cost-effective, efficient, non-volatile electrolyte material, without the explosive risks associated with current technologies. And researchers at Tufts University may have solved the riddle.
Mike Zimmerman, a Material Science Professor and former plastics engineer, and his team have created a solid, plastic electrolyte material that is durable, lightweight and already being manufactured in Zimmerman’s own small facility. In addition to teaching, he runs a side company called Ionic Materials, which has just shown off its solid electrolyte material to the press for the first time. An upcoming NOVA special called “Search for the Superbattery” is set to premieres this Wednesday night at 9 p.m. on PBS, during which Zimmerman demos one the batteries.
The demo is quite impressive. The battery is barely thicker than a couple of playing cards and is connected to an array of LEDs that require roughly the same voltage as today’s smartphones. The battery is then shredded with a pair of scissors until is reduced to a fraction of its original size and the LEDs remain lit the entire time. There are no explosions, sparks, or any ill effects.
Along with their safer characteristics, the batteries could also offer up double the capacity of current technologies.
The batteries are not quite ready to hit the marker, however. Zimmerman says that development is never really done, and there is still a lot of reliability testing to do. Scaling up the manufacturing techniques necessary to mass produce the batteries could also post problems. The team is confident they’ll be able to leap the remaining hurdles, however.