Non-Flammable Electrolyte to Increase Battery Safety

Article By : M. Di Paolo Emilio

A revolutionary new electrolyte protects batteries from flammability hazards and makes them suitable for high-temperature applications.

A new technology from Jenax is now able to solve the safety problems that affect batteries which catch fire, explode at extremely high temperatures, or short circuit. Thanks to this technology, which is built into battery cells, the safety of products — including those in electric vehicles — is greatly improved while ensuring high battery performance.

“Liquid is the best conductor for ionic movement, which means it delivers the best battery performance. But, as liquid can also be a tremendous fire hazard, many manufacturers try to use solid-state electrolytes instead: They sacrifice efficiency — and in the case of wearables — comfort, and usability for safety,” said EJ Shin, Director of Jenax. “Jenax has always been focused on delivering the greatest combination of safety and performance. With our nonflammable electrolyte, we’re taking both to the next level — providing the peace of mind manufacturers and consumers need with the high performance they deserve.”

Lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles are basically the same as those of an ordinary smartphone. The main difference is the size and number of internal cells, and (just like in smartphones and notebooks) lithium-ion batteries ignite or even explode when significantly overheated or if there are problems while charging.

Low production costs and (more or less) fast recharging are the characteristics that have allowed lithium-ion batteries to conquer a fairly large slice of the market.

Lithium batteries, for several applications, use organic electrolytes due to the high operating voltage. They also present a risk of degradation due to a violent and dangerous combustion reaction in cases of misuse; this reaction can occur when the temperature of the battery exceeds 65 °C and is very likely to exceed 75 °C.

For lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, the electrolytes are almost universally based on combinations of linear and cyclic alkyl carbonates. These electrolytes make it possible to use Li as an anodic active component and determine the high power and energy density characteristic of Li-ion chemicals. However, these organic electrolytes have a high volatility and flammability, which represents a serious safety issue for their use in consumer and transport markets. When exposed to extreme conditions of high voltage and temperature, these electrolytes can react with active electrode materials to release significant heat and gas.

Thermal leakage is the key scientific problem in battery safety research and is particularly seen in lithium-ion batteries — which today are the workhorse in the development of electric vehicles. Automotive batteries have their own liquid cooling system, which works in the same way as thermal engines (with exchangers and fans). The difference is that on electric vehicles the cooling circuit is also activated during recharging when the car is switched off, but the energy flows (especially with more powerful refueling systems) raise the temperature of the battery.

Jenax was a pioneer in the field of ultra-flexible polymer batteries that can bend in many directions; this advance has eliminated the problems of traditional solid and rigid batteries while offering strong battery performance. Now, the new nonflammable liquid electrolyte will be incorporated into batteries — offering hardware manufacturers the ability also to use liquid polymer and/or gel-based cell technologies. Gel-based batteries are also suitable for wearables, particularly where puncturing may be an issue (as there is no leakage).

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