Dec 07, 2016 | Updated: 09:37 AM EST

Stanford Researchers Create Lithium-Ion Batteries That Prevent Fire

Jan 13, 2016 02:03 AM EST

The future of lithium-ion batteries may be brighter particularly in terms of overheating issues. Researchers from Stanford University are particularly addressing battery-heating issues by creating lithium-ion batteries that automatically shut down when they become too hot and, interestingly, revive again when they cool down.

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According to Stanford News, these lithium-ion batteries composed of two electrodes and a gel or liquid electrolyte, which serves as the charged particles' carrier. Conventionally, when batteries are damaged, they conduct heat, and this heat, once goes beyond 300 F, allows electrolytes to catch fire.

Thus, Stanford's latest technology  is helpful in preventing these fires that are commonly associated with household devices powered by batteries, such as computers and hoverboards. The new battery follows a certain cycle in which it can automatically shut off when it is overheating and can restart again when it has cooled down to a preset temperature range, without compromising performance.

The researchers utilized graphene-coated spiky nickel particles using nanotechnology and installed an elastic polyethylene thin film to one of the electrodes to allow current to flow. When overheating occurs to more than 160 F, the film expands causing the spiky particles to spread apart, thus making the film nonconducive for electricity and shutting down its system. And the opposite scenario happens -- film shrinks and spiky particles stick together -- when the battery starts cooling again.

Previous research also targets to address batteries' overheating issues by adding flame retardants to the electrolyte. In 2014, Yi Cui, a Stanford engineer and study's co-author, invented a smart battery that signals caution before overheating. However, it was irreversible, thus making the battery unusable after.

This new research therefore holds a promise of faster battery performance and improved safety contributes to the creation of a more reliable and reversible practical battery applications. Of note, Cui said that in spite of a lot of effort invested, the ultimate goal is always toward battery safety.

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