‘Almost perfect’ battery from MIT will last longer, won’t degrade - and never blow up in your face

© Yan Wang / Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Material scientists have developed a solid-state electrolyte, which can greatly boost modern battery technology. It would allow batteries to endure hundreds of thousands of recharges, pack more juice and be safe from combustion.

Electrolyte is one of key components of a battery, transporting charged ions from one electrode to another during charging and discharging. Modern lithium-ion batteries use liquid electrolyte, but a group of scientists claim to have developed a better all-round solid-state electrolyte. The research was published in Nature Materials in a paper by MIT postdoc Yan Wang, visiting professor Gerbrand Ceder, and five others.

Their invention belongs to a class of materials known as superionic lithium-ion conductors, which are compounds of lithium, germanium, phosphorus and sulfur. Their working solution leads to an “almost a perfect battery” that would be a game changer, according to Ceder.

The electrolyte can withstand hundreds of thousands of recharge cycles, meaning a battery made with it would last practically forever. It has superior energy density, packing 20 to 30 percent more energy for a given volume. It is also more stable than a liquid electrolyte, meaning the rare but widely publicized cases of battery combustion like the one that grounded the entire fleet of Boeing Dreamliners would no longer be possible.

An added benefit is that it works at temperatures colder than minus 30 degrees Celsius, unlike the common lithium-ion batteries that require preheating.

The team says the principles derived from their research could lead to even more effective materials.

The research was conducted in collaboration with the Korean consumer electronic producer Samsung through its Advanced Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.