Scientists from the University of Maryland are targeting dendrites, a bane of solid-state batteries that cause malfunctions in the power packs and are hindering their commercialization.
The research is important, as it could help to mainstream the use of a battery type that is less likely to catch fire. As part of the study, the researchers are working on an “interlayer” inside the batteries that will nullify dendrite growth. Dendrites are metal, branch-like structures that develop as the battery is used, according to a report from TechXplore.
Solid-state batteries use a solid electrolyte, the part of the battery where lithium ions move between the anode and cathode during the charge/discharge cycle. Many EVs (about 750,000 in the U.S., TechXplore reports) use lithium-ion batteries with a liquid electrolyte. The solid method has several advantages, including improved energy storage and safety, per the U.S. Energy Department.
Liquid electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries is flammable and susceptible to rare, yet severe fires. That’s why the Terrapin team, and other champions of solid-state tech, are working to make the innovation a reliable option, per TechXplore.
“Solid-state batteries are next-generation because they can achieve high energy and safety,” study co-author and Terrapin lead researcher Professor Chunsheng Wang, said in the TechXplore story.
But, first, they need to deal with the dendrites.
The growths develop inside the battery while it is charging, according to a university lab report. When batteries are used for laborious work, like powering an EV, dendrites grow and can cause short circuits and other problems, per TechXplore.
The researchers’ solution involves adding the interlayer that, in part, stabilizes activity inside the power pack, preventing dendrite formation.
“The new battery structure adds a fluorine-rich interlayer that stabilizes the cathode side, as well as a modification of the anode’s interlayer with magnesium and bismuth — suppressing the lithium dendrite,” per a description from TechXplore.
Now, the experts must work on perfecting energy storage, battery size, and lowering the cost, while they further prove their concept. Colorado battery maker Solid Power is set to complete a trial with the innovation, with an eye toward commercialization. The plan is to release the tech in 2026, all per TechXplore.
In the end, the goal is to get the most out of power packs without compromising safety, according to the experts.
“In current batteries, if you achieve high energy, you’ll sacrifice safety,” Wang said for the report posted by TechXplore. “Solid-state batteries are next-generation because they can achieve high energy and safety.”
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