I remember once when a friend’s posting on Facebook drew a lot of attention: “Be careful while using cellular phones – someone got injured as his cell phone exploded into flame.” What is there that can cause the explosion? On another occasion, I needed to change the battery of my cell phone, but it was too pricey, so ultimately, instead of changing the battery, I ended up buying a new phone. Lots of questions came into my mind. What types of batteries are available in the market? How can the cost of the battery be reduced? Can a cell phone be used for longer duration without charging the battery? How many times the battery can be charged before replacing it?
Coincidentally, I got involved in MMI’s lithium battery projects and over several years learned about many interesting terminologies and aspects of lithium batteries – specific power, specific energy, C-rate, cycle life, capacity, cell voltage, self discharge and lots more. MMI scientists have been working on developing the lithium-air battery, the next generation of batteries that has the potential to revolutionize energy storage technology. One of the major components of this battery is air, which is readily available and absolutely free. But life is not a bed of roses. Lithium reacts with moisture of air, so protection is absolutely needed. Scientists at MMI have been developing a membrane that will allow oxygen from air to pass while blocking/minimizing moisture transport. This will mitigate the safety issue and increase the lifetime of lithium battery.
The liquid (or electrolyte) that is used to transfer ions between positive and negative poles of the battery during charging and/or discharging is not only volatile, but flammable too. MMI scientists also have been working on developing non-volatile, non-flammable, solid electrolytes that will help solve the safety issues while providing a similar level of performance as that of liquid electrolytes.