Electric is the future… or so they say. Electric vehicles are booming and will continue to grow exponentially while smartphones are everywhere. The issue with electric power is the associated demand for batteries that are mostly of the lithium-ion variant and require the use of finite resources. Tesla’s Gigafactory is churning out lithium-ion batteries like girls do with selfies on a night out clubbing.
Of course, nobody wants to poke the bear and ask what happens next.
IBM Research haven’t just poked the bear, they tamed it. Lithium-ion batteries require the use of heavy metals such as cobalt, manganese and nickel. These metals are hazardous to the environment; especially to the miners mining them out of the ground. They’re also finite resources.
So how did IBM Research solve this? Their Battery Lab replaced cobalt and nickel in the cathode as well as substituting the liquid electrolyte with a new type. The electrolytes enable the ions to move from one end to the other, generating power in the process. Furthermore, the new electrolyte also possesses a high flash point that reduces the creation of lithium dendrites and results in being less prone to short circuits.
IBM’s big brains also believe the new battery will boast a larger capacity than the equivalent lithium-ion battery, will charge up to 80 per cent in just five minutes, be more energy efficient and cheaper to manufacture.
Nonetheless, all these claims are from lab testing so it’ll be quite some time before you see this tech making its way into your everyday electronic devices. In the meantime, IBM Research is teaming up with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development for further testing and feasibility studies for the new battery.
So, not only is this new battery safer for the environment, it’ll also be more affordable to manufacture and safer to operate. It's just a matter of time before lithium-ion batteries will be phased out due to depleted resources so expect to see these IBM units powering your electric vehicles and possibly smartphones as well in the (near?) future.