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Scientists Develop Safer, More Durable Li-Ion Battery for Extreme Conditions

Flexible Aqueous Li-Ion Battery with High Energy and Power Densities

Dr. Kang Xu, U.S. Army Research Laboratory Electrochemistry team lead and a fellow at ARL, collaborates with the University of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to demonstrate a new type of flexible lithium-ion battery that not only poses no safety hazards, but also can continue to operate even under severe mechanical abuse.

Flexible battery is cut multiple times and immersed in synthetic sea water and continues to power load.

Flexible battery is cut multiple times and immersed in synthetic sea water and continues to power load.

Flexible battery is cut multiple times and immersed in synthetic sea water and continues to power load.

Flexible battery is cut multiple times and immersed in synthetic sea water and continues to power load.

December 4, 2017 | Source: John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, jhuapl.edu, 10 October 2017, APL staff

Remember those reports of exploding hoverboards a few years ago? The culprit behind those spontaneous electrical combustions were low-quality Li-ion batteries, which contain highly flammable, toxic, and moisture-sensitive electrolytes.

A team of scientists at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has partnered with researchers from the University of Maryland and the Army Research Laboratory to develop a new type of flexible lithium-ion battery that is not hazardous and can operate under extreme conditions including cutting, submersion, and ballistic impact.

In their paper, "Flexible Aqueous Li-ion Battery with High Energy and Power Densities," which was published online last month in Advanced Materials, the scientists describe their work, which builds upon a novel, highly-concentrated water-based electrolyte called "water-in-salt" that can address the instability of traditional Li-ion batteries.

In their demonstration, the battery powered a significant motor load without any safety concerns. To demonstrate the full safety potential, the team performed a series of tests while the battery was in operation, including cutting it, immersing it in sea water, and subjecting it to ballistic testing at an APL facility. None of these tests would be possible with traditional Li-ion batteries.

Impressively, not only did these abuse tests cause no catastrophic failure, but the battery maintained its performance and continued to power the load even when damaged and completely exposed to air and water.