A new solid electrolyte that combines the high conductivity of ceramic with the flexibility of polymers could be a feasible alternative to the highly flammable liquid electrolytes used in lithium batteries today. It has yet to be tested in a battery, but the electrolyte’s conductivity reached 0.52 × 10–4 siemens/cm. The conductivity of typical liquid electrolytes is on the order of 10–3 S/cm, but 10–4 is sufficient for portable electronics, says Haowei Zhai, a doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering at Columbia Univ.
Solid-state electrolytes are the subject of intense research because of the potential dangers of liquid-electrolyte-based lithium batteries; Samsung’s struggles with the exploding Note 7 over the past year illustrate the issue. But developing a feasible solid electrolyte is difficult.
Ceramic electrolytes, which are highly conductive, are an option, but they are rigid and hard to produce, Zhai says. Polymer electrolytes are bendable and easy to make, but their conductivity leaves something to be desired.
“We thought that maybe we could combine these polymer and ceramic electrolytes together,” Zhai says.
To do so, Zhai and...
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