Between Samsung’s massive Galaxy Note 7 recall, hoverboards that catch fire, and e-cigarettes that unexpectedly combust, there has been no shortage of dangerous examples that suggest some batteries — specifically of the lithium-ion type — found in popular electronics are susceptible to explosions. Now, scientists are working to create a safer alternative power source.
CBS News reports that the Department of Energy is funding several research projects — to the tune of tens of millions of dollars — that aim to develop and test alternatives to lithium-ion batteries.
One such project is housed at the University of Maryland, where scientists are replacing often combustible components in lithium-ion batteries with small, lithium-infused ceramic discs.
According to the scientists, the lithium-conducting ceramic disc is inflammable and can handle thousands of degrees without suffering the issues some traditional lithium-ion batteries see, like overheating.
While the battery alternative is showing promise, the researchers caution it’s not ready for use in smartphones or other devices just yet.
“So this size is fine for little batteries, the little coin cells you might see in a hearing aids or whatever — small little round ones. But to get to the larger size, it’s just a matter of scaling up the size,” Eric Wachsman, engineering professor at the University of Maryland, tells CBS News.
But just because the battery isn’t ready for mass consumption yet, doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future. In fact, Wachsman says that following Samsung’s recent issues, he’s been approached by companies all over the world.
“We have manufacturing partners and we expect to have a product in the next few years,” Wachsman said.
Despite the advancements, some have reservations on the viability of such batteries. Eric Limer, deputy editor at PopularMechanics.com, tells CBS News that it’s one thing to create a battery in a lab, and another for it to actually work in the real world.
by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist