Solid State Batteries: A Safer, Stronger EV Alternative
Did you know that solid-state batteries could potentially be safer and more powerful than the commonly used lithium-ion batteries? It’s true! Solid-state batteries are already being used in small electronic devices like smartwatches, but the hope is to use them in electric cars and even to store energy from solar panels for later use. There are, however, some technical challenges that need addressing before they make it to the mainstream.
The science behind solid state batteries
Recently, a study led by Sandia National Laboratories found that adding a little bit of liquid electrolyte to solid-state batteries could actually make them safer than lithium-ion batteries. This is because current liquid electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries are flammable and can cause battery explosions or fires if the battery is damaged. However, the study found that in many cases, solid-state batteries with a little liquid electrolyte were safer than their lithium-ion counterparts.
Solid-state batteries work similarly to lithium-ion batteries, with lithium ions moving from one side of the battery to the other, while electrons flow through a circuit to power the device. The main difference is that solid-state batteries use a solid material called a solid electrolyte, which helps the lithium ions move quickly. However, the solid electrolyte makes it difficult for the lithium ions to move from the solid electrolyte to the electrodes and vice versa.
Scientists have found a way to speed up the movement of lithium ions by adding a little bit of liquid electrolyte to the positive side of the battery. Adding liquid electrolyte to a solid-state battery was previously thought to make the battery unsafe, but the recent Sandia study showed that this is not always the case.
Alex Bates, a postdoctoral researcher who led the study, said, “Solid-state batteries have the potential to be safer, and they have the potential for higher energy density. The addition of liquid electrolyte may help bridge the gap to commercialization, without sacrificing safety.”
Solid state batteries aren’t without some challenges
There are dozens of startups working on bringing solid-state batteries to market, many with big funding from major OEMs and optimistic projections of product launches by 2025. They are all dealing with a few roadblocks, however, including material shortages, recycling issues and the cost involved in building the factories to mass produce them. They are manufactured totally different from lithium batteries, so it’s a ‘whole new thing’ to bring them to market.
While some folks are talking about them hitting the market in the next few years, the reality is more like 2030 – 2032 before they’re widely available. That gives battery developers about a decade to figure out the recycling and supply chain issues. Regardless, it’s progress…and we’ll take it!
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