According to MIT News, a new type of lithium batteries called the “lithium metal” batteries, are one track to be commercialized, and are expected to arrive in smartphones in 2017. The new technology batteries are developed by MIT spin-off SolidEnergy, and can pack the same energy as a standard lithium-ion cell in half the size (via Engadget).
SolidEnergy CEO Qichao Hu said, “we can make a battery the same size as a lithium ion battery, but now it will last twice as long”. Although researchers have been trying to replace lithium metal with carbon anodes in batteries for quite a while, but the problem of increased resistance and “dendrite” filaments that form on the anodes, has remained unsolved. At MIT however, Hu developed a thin lithium metal foil anode that did reduce battery size considerably. But there’s a catch. The battery needs to be heated up to 175F before it can work.
To solve that, the team developed a solid electrolyte coating for the lithium metal foil that functions at room temperature. Hu also formulated a non-flammable liquid electrolyte with less resistance that won’t create dendrites when it reacts with the lithium metal. The end result is a battery with the same power as a modern lithium cell in half the size.
Investors soured on battery tech when another MIT spinoff, A123 systems, went bankrupt because it’s tech didn’t work. However, SolidEnergy took over A123’s idle facility, which forced it to build its own batteries in a commercially practical way.
SolidEnergy now has its own facility and is building towards a November 2016 launch with drone batteries. Following that, it plans to commercialize cells for smartphones and other electronics in 2017.