We live in a world where technology accelerates and innovates at an alarming rate. Smartphones get thinner and more beautiful every year with phenomenal camera qualities and stunning screens in all shapes and sizes. However, one aspect of smartphones that remains a constant peeve to power users: the battery. It’s almost never enough and we keep hearing news of new technology around the corner that will help increase battery life but nothing significant has hit the commercial market. This could finally change in 2017, thanks to SolidEnergy, a start-up formed in MIT.
The company has been able to squeeze in the same amount of power in a standard lithium-ion battery in half its size, or pack twice as much power in a standard sized battery. Now that sounds promising. This new tech is called Lithium Metal, and it’s a concept that’s been worked on by researchers for some time now. There was an issue of increased resistance and the formation of dendrite filaments on the anodes that would cause the batteries to heat up and eventually short circuit. SolidEnergy CEO Qichao Hu developed a thin lithium metal foil anode that reduces battery size considerably while he was at MIT. It would only work at an increased temperature of almost 80 degrees Celsius, which was obviously not at all practical.
The solution for this comes in the form of developing a solid electrolyte coating for the lithium metal foil that is able to work at room temperature. Along with this, Hu created a liquid electrolyte that had reduced resistance and wasn’t flammable. These two formulations helped him overcome the two main issues with the Lithium Metal concept, which can potentially give us powerful batteries at half their current size.
SolidEnergy has built a manufacturing facility for drone batteries that is aiming for a November launch. This will be its test bed. Depending on how well it goes, the start-up’s next step will be to enter the commercial market of smartphone batteries and other electronics next year. By 2018, SolidEnergy is aiming to take on EV batteries giving cars by the likes of Tesla twice their current mileage. The technology is exciting and we can only hope this company succeeds where others have unfortunately failed.