NCSU Researchers Find Key Ingredient For A Better Battery

Feb 17, 2014

A team of NSCU researchers have found an ingredient that could make lithium ion batteries safer and last longer.
Credit Kristoferb / Wikipedia Creative Commons

Scientists in the Triangle might have discovered a non-flammable liquid electrolyte that could be instrumental for longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries found in cell phones, laptops, and some electric cars.

The research could also provide a solution to the recent high-profile battery fires in the Tesla Model S car, iPhones, and Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

Study co-author Joseph DeSimone is a chemical engineering professor at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He said finding batteries that can operate at extreme temperatures with longer-lasting mobile power is becoming increasingly important.

“Everybody relies on the fact we can be disconnected from the grid and still be functional,” DeSimone said. “We require power. Our military requires power. A lot of our guys are jumping out of planes with 40 pounds of batteries.”

DeSimone said their discovery could pave the way for lithium air batteries that would, some speculate, would allow electric vehicles to drive 500 miles on one charge – the equivalent of a tank of gas. Right now, one charge won't even take electric vehicles half that distance.

He said the discovery could be a game-changer on multiple levels.

“People have speculated that if you have a battery that operates in this other regime, that you might not have batteries shorting out. And it should have the ability to function at low temps,” DeSimone said. “So you might have a whole host of performance advantages coupled with the safety advantage of being non-flammable.”

The research appears in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.