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What is a solid-state battery and solve our battery life problems?



The performance of mobile technologies is increasing exponentially, but battery technology is not holding We are reaching the physical limits of the possibilities of traditional lithium-ion and lithium-polymer designs. The solution could be a solid-state battery.

What is a solid state battery?

A traditional battery design – mostly lithium-ion – uses two massive metal electrodes with a liquid lithium salt that acts as an electrolyte. Ion particles move from one electrode (the cathode) to the other (the anode) when the battery is charged , and vice versa, when the battery discharges. The liquid lithium salt electrolyte is the medium that allows this movement. If you have ever seen a battery corroded or punctured, the liquid electrolyte is the "battery acid" that escapes (or sometimes explodes).

In a solid-state battery, both the positive and negative electrodes and the electrolyte between them are solid pieces of metal, alloys or other plastics. The term "solid state" may remind you of SSD data drives, and that's no coincidence. Solid-state storage drives use flash memory that does not move, unlike a standard hard drive that stores data on a rotating magnetic disk driven by a tiny motor.

Although the idea of ​​solid-state batteries has been around For some decades, progress in their development is still in its infancy and is currently being driven by investments by electronics companies, car manufacturers and general industrial suppliers.

What's better about solid-state batteries?

Solid-state batteries promise some advantages over fluid-filled cousins: better battery life, faster charge times, and a safer experience.

Solid state batteries compress the anode, cathode, and electrolyte in three flat layers rather than hanging the electrodes in a liquid electrolyte. This means you can make them smaller, or at least flatter, and hold as much energy as a larger, liquid-based battery. Replacing the lithium-ion or lithium-polymer battery of your phone or laptop with a solid-state battery of the same size would result in a much longer charge. Alternatively, you can make a device that keeps the same charge much smaller or thinner.

Solid state batteries are also safer because they do not overflow toxic, flammable liquids and they do not emit as much heat as conventional batteries. If used on batteries that supply power electronics or even electric cars, they could recharge much faster – ions could move much faster from the cathode to the anode.

According to recent research, a solid-state battery could perform better than conventional rechargeable batteries with a capacity of 500% or more and charging in one tenth of the time.

What are the disadvantages?

Because solid-state batteries are an emerging technology, they are incredibly expensive to manufacture. In fact so expensive that they are not yet installed in one of the leading consumer electronics at the time of writing. Analysts writing for the University of Florida Software Analysis and Advanced Materials Processing Department in 2012 estimated that a typical cell-sized solid state battery would cost around $ 15,000. One big enough to power an electric car would cost $ 100,000.

Making a solid-state battery large enough to power your phone costs thousands of dollars today. Hundreds of millions of rechargeable batteries are currently being manufactured each year. The manufacturing costs of materials and devices are distributed over large supply lines. There are few companies and universities that deal with solid-state batteries, so the cost of producing each battery is astronomical.

Another topic is the materials. While the properties of various metals, alloys and metal salts for conventional rechargeable batteries are known, we currently do not know the best chemical and atomic composition for a solid electrolyte between metal anodes and cathodes. Current research limits this, but we need to gather more reliable data before we can collect or synthesize the materials and invest in manufacturing processes.

When will I use a solid-state battery?

As with all new technologies, finding out when you can get your hands on it is, at best, a guess.

It is encouraging that many large companies are investing in the research that is required to bring solid-state batteries into the consumer market, but shy of a big breakthrough in the near future, it's hard to say if there's a big leap forward will give at the front. At least one car company says it will be ready to put one in a vehicle by 2023, but does not know how much this car could cost. Five years seem too optimistic; ten years seems more likely. It may take twenty years or more for the materials to settle and the manufacturing processes to be developed.

But as we said at the beginning of the article, conventional battery technology is starting to hit a wall. And nothing compares to potential sales that drive research and development. At least (very, very little), you may be able to use a device soon or drive a car that uses a solid-state battery.

Picture credits: Sucharas Wongpeth / Shutterstock, Daniel Krason / Shutterstock


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