Excerpt from popularmechanics.com
In new research published last month in the journal Nature, scientists from Brown University and the University of Maryland say that a material derived from trees could replace the volatile liquid electrolytes in today’s lithium ion batteries. When mixed with copper, these nanofibrils form a layer that conducts ions up to 100 times better than other polymers—all while being much safer than existing flammable lithium solutions.
“Although solid-state lithium (Li)-metal batteries promise both high energy density and safety, existing solid ion conductors fail to satisfy the rigorous requirements of battery operations,” the researchers wrote. They say that because solid electrolytes, while promising, have a few big obstacles before they’re necessarily ready for primetime:
Inorganic ion conductors allow fast ion transport, but their rigid and brittle nature prevents good interfacial contact with electrodes. Conversely, polymer ion conductors that are Li-metal-stable usually provide better interfacial compatibility and mechanical tolerance, but typically suffer from inferior ionic conductivity owing to the coupling of the ion transport with the motion of the polymer chains.