SolidEnergy is an MIT spinoff and says that its lithium-metal batteries can have up to double the energy capacity of today’s lithium-ion batteries. The battery is labeled as being just as safe and reliable, while offering comparable stamina to lithium-ion batteries.
MIT alum and SolidEnergy CEO Qichao Hu says that the battery uses a lithium-metal foil instead of a graphite-based anode. This foil is coated with a non-flammable solid electrolyte that makes “typically short-lived and volatile lithium metal batteries rechargeable and safer to use.” According to Hu, the batteries can be easily manufactured using the same production lines that assemble lithium-ion batteries. SolidEnergy is proof of this fact, as it is currently using A123 Systems’ battery production facility for its initial run of lithium-metal batteries (A123 Systems went bankrupt in 2012).
“We were forced to use materials that can be implemented into the existing manufacturing line,” says Hu. “By starting with this real-world manufacturing perspective and building real-world batteries, we were able to understand what materials worked in those processes, and then work backwards to design new materials.”
The end result is that SolidEnergy’s lithium-metal battery can offer the same capacity as a lithium-ion battery at half the size, or double the capacity while taking up the same amount of space. Instantly doubling the battery life of your smartphone or smartwatch sounds like a great proposition to us, but we need to see this technology on the market before we can start jumping for joy.
Luckily, Hu claims that the first products to ship with lithium-metal batteries, aerial drones, will become commercially available in November. The batteries will hopefully be available in smartphones in 2017, with production ramping up for electric vehicles in 2018.