New Polymer Could Help Batteries Heal

New Polymer Could Help Batteries Heal
An innovative new polymer could lead to self-healing batteries that are also recyclable.

Lithium-ion batteries have been known for their occasional fires, which are caused in part by the battery’s liquid electrolyte. Solid electrolytes can be safer, but brittle, while rubbery lithium conductors made of cross-linked polymer strands are hard to recycle and won’t self-heal. To offer a safe, effective and recyclable battery option, the team from the University of Illinois created a polymer electrolyte made up of cross-links that produce exchange reactions, swapping polymer strands and causing the polymer to become stiffer when heated. This reaction minimizes the growth of dendrites, and the polymer can also be easily broken down in water at room temperature.

Although the material requires more research to be used today, the team believes it shows promise not only in future batteries, but also as a platform that could be used with other chemistries to tweak conductivity and mechanical properties.

Image Credit: L. Brian Stauffer - Materials science and engineering professor Christopher Evans, right, and graduate student Brian Jing have developed a solid battery electrolyte that is both self-healing and recyclable.

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