What is a Solid-State Battery?
When reading a story in the media that references “solid-state batteries” it’s important to keep in mind that in most cases the writer is talking about a lithium-ion battery that incorporates some changes to the cell structure. The primary difference lies in the electrolyte. Traditional lithium-ion batteries use a liquid electrolyte, while solid-state lithium-ion batteries use both solid electrodes and a solid electrolyte. Other battery chemistries besides lithium-ion can also be designed using solid-state construction methods.
Here’s a brief breakdown:
Traditional Lithium-Ion Batteries
These have a liquid (or polymer gel) electrolyte that conducts lithium ions between the cathode and anode. The liquid electrolyte can pose some safety issues, such as leakage, flammability, or even explosion under certain conditions.
These replace the liquid electrolyte with a solid electrolyte. This solid electrolyte can be composed of a variety of materials, including ceramics, polymers, or even hybrid combinations. The use of a solid electrolyte can potentially lead to higher energy densities, longer cycle life, and improved safety due to the reduced risk of leakage or combustion.
That being said, it’s important to note that not all solid-state batteries are lithium-ion. The term “solid-state battery” refers broadly to any battery using a solid electrolyte, so other chemistries aside from lithium-ion can also be utilized in a solid-state configuration. However, lithium-ion-based solid-state batteries are currently the most researched and discussed due to their potential for high performance and safety in various applications, especially in electric vehicles.
Are Solid-State Batteries Safe?
Solid-state batteries have not yet reached mass commercialization, so it’s impossible to say whether they will be safer in real-world applications. Researchers believe that they should be less prone to thermal runaway due to overcharging or internal shorts, but recent tests show that they may be just as flammable when crushed or punctured.
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