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Can the hardened electrolyte of lithium-ion batteries be fireproof and short-circuit resistant?

by:dcfpower     2021-03-15

Lithium-ion batteries harden the liquid electrolyte during impact and ignition, which can prevent the battery from short-circuiting and catching fire. We should add powdered silica (blue container) to the plastic layer (white sheet) to separate the electrodes inside the plastic (Gold bag) to prevent fires from lithium-ion batteries.

In order to make lithium-ion batteries safer, researchers have proposed a new solution: the liquid electrolyte becomes strong upon impact. The electrolyte can prevent the battery from heating up and exploding in the event of a car crash or fall. Its developers say that it can be used cost-effectively and efficiently in today's battery production lines. Lithium-ion battery cells contain two electrodes, which are separated by a thin plastic sheet and immersed in a liquid electrolyte. If the plastic separator ruptures, the electrodes may 'touch' each other, short-circuit the battery and generate heat, which may cause the volatile liquid electrolyte to ignite.

For many years, researchers have been trying to use non-flammable solid electrolytes to make batteries safer. But these solids (usually plastics or ceramics) do not conduct ions and their liquid counterparts. Some teams are also making batteries with paste-like semi-solid electrolytes and glass-like electrolytes. The electrolytes made by Gabriel Weiss and his colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are usually liquid, but become solid when strained. Therefore, if the battery is crushed or impacted, the electrolyte will harden so that the electrodes do not touch. Researchers are presenting their work at the Boston meeting of the American Chemical Society. The electrolyte formulation is very simple. Inspired by thickened liquids. A simple example is a mixture of corn starch and water. When you hit the mixture with force, it will thicken and feel very hard because the cornstarch granules clump together.

Weiqi and his colleagues added silica particles in the 200-nanometer range to a traditional liquid electrolyte, which is a diluted lithium salt solution. Silica nanoparticles gather together in the new electrolyte, making it a hard solid, not just a thick liquid. The key to this approach is to control the size of the nanoparticles. 'We found that the particle size must be very uniform,' said Veitch. 'We are talking about adding or subtracting one nanometer.' The researchers used a highly controlled chemical process called the Stöber method to produce particles of almost the same size. He said that as long as the battery is in a squeezed state, the material will remain strong. In addition, silica can also absorb heat, so the electrolyte is not easy to burn.

In the laboratory, the battery in the test with the new solidified electrolyte is roughly the same as the battery filled with liquid. Silica nanoparticles do reduce the electrolyte’s ability to conduct ions, which reduces the battery’s capacity and slows down the charging speed. The capacity of the battery is measured at the C rate, where 1C means that the battery is charged or discharged within 1 hour, and 2C is charged or discharged within 30 minutes. 'Our battery works well at rates up to 2C, which is acceptable for most electronic products,' said Veitch.

In contrast to switching to solid electrolytes, silica-containing electrolytes can be incorporated into current battery manufacturing processes. It is necessary to first load the plastic separator with silica nanoparticles and inject the liquid electrolyte into the prepared battery. The silicon dioxide will then diffuse into the electrolyte. 'This is a technology, not a transformation of your production line.' Vikki said.

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