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Engineering Students at Illinois University Build Solid Polymer Based Electrolyte

Lithium-ion batteries are known for developing internal electrical shorts that can ignite a battery’s liquid electrolytes, leading to explosions and fires. Engineers at the University of Illinois have engineered a solid polymer-based electrolyte that may self-heal after damage—and the fabric can also be recycled without using harsh chemicals or high temperatures.

The brand new study, which could assist manufacturers in producing recyclable, self-healing commercial batteries, is released in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

As lithium-ion batteries go through several cycles of charge and discharge, they develop tiny, branchlike structures of stable lithium called dendrites, the researchers stated. These structures decrease battery life, cause hotspots, and electrical shorts, and sometimes develop large enough to pierce the internal parts of the battery, inflicting explosive chemical reactions between the electrodes and electrolyte liquids.

There was a push by chemists and engineers to replace the liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries with solid materials equivalent to ceramics or polymers, the researchers stated. Nonetheless, many of these supplies are inflexible and brittle resulting in poor electrolyte-to-electrode contact and reduced conductivity.

Past studies have produced stable electrolytes through the use of a network of polymer strands, which might be cross-linked to form a rubbery lithium conductor.

This methodology delays the expansion of dendrites; nonetheless, these materials are advanced and cannot be recovered or healed after injury, Jing said.

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