Economy, Sci & Tech

New Spin on Battery Technology

New Spin on Battery Technology New Spin on Battery Technology

Mike Zimmerman likes to shock his guests by using a hammer to drive a nail through a solid polymer lithium metal battery. Nothing happens — and that’s a good thing.

Zimmerman’s battery is a new spin on lithium-ion batteries, which are widely used in products from smartphones to cars.

Today’s lithium-ion batteries, as anyone who has followed Samsung’s problems with flammable smartphones may know, can be ticking time bombs. John Markoff wrote on Seattle Times.

The liquids in them can burst into flames if there is a short circuit of some sort. And driving a nail into one of them is definitely not recommended.

With that in mind, Zimmerman’s demonstration commands attention.

His startup, Ionic Materials, is at the cutting edge of an effort to design safer batteries. The Woburn, Mass. company is working on “solid” lithium polymer batteries that greatly reduce their combustible nature.

A solid lithium polymer metal battery will allow electronics designers to be more creative, because they will be able to use a plastic like material that allows smaller and more flexible packaging and requires fewer complex safety mechanisms.

After four years of development, Zimmerman believes he is nearly there and hopes to begin production within the next two years.

Ionic Materials is one of a new wave of academic and commercial research efforts in the United States, Europe and Asia to find safer battery technologies as consumers demand more performance from phones and cars.

The interest in solid batteries was highlighted in September when the U.S. Department of Energy’s agency for supporting research in next-generation energy technology announced 16 awards aimed at accelerating development of solid battery technologies, including a $3 million contract to Ionic Materials.

There is growing evidence that after decades of excruciatingly slow development, batteries are on the verge of yielding to a new generation of material science.

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