Researchers Develop Lithium-ion Battery That Won’t Overheat

Stanford researchers are using a polyethylene film in lithium-ion batteries to shut down the battery if it gets too hot. (PHOTO CREDIT: Stanford University/IDGNS)
Stanford researchers are using a polyethylene film in lithium-ion batteries to shut down the battery if it gets too hot. (PHOTO CREDIT: Stanford University/IDGNS)

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a lithium-ion battery that shuts down as it begins to overheat, potentially meaning the types of catastrophic fires seen in hoverboards, laptops and airliners could become a thing of the past.

Lithium-ion batteries are used in just about all portable electronics. They’re light, can store a lot of energy and are easily recharged, but they are also susceptible to overheating if damaged. A short circuit in the battery often leads to fire.

In the new Stanford battery, researchers employed a polyethylene film that has embedded particles of nickel with nanoscale spikes. They coated the spikes with graphene, a conducting material, so that electricity can flow over the surface.

But when the temperature rises, the film expands, and at about 70 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit) the conducting spikes no longer touch each other, breaking the circuit and causing the battery to shut down.

Once the battery shuts down, a runaway thermal reaction is avoided and the battery cools, eventually bringing the nickel spikes back into contact and allowing the electricity flow to resume.

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SOURCE: Computerworld, Martyn Williams