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New Non-flammable, Lithium-Ion Battery: Researchers Hope To Make Exploding Laptops And Cell Phones A Thing Of The Past

Researchers have created a lithium-ion battery that won’t burst into flames when overheated, a serendipitous, “unexpected result” of completely unrelated research. The new technology, which could vastly improve the safety of batteries powering everything from cell phones to airplanes, was discovered by researchers studying a material that prevents marine life from sticking to ships. The non-flammable material, perfluoropolyether, or PFPE, replaces the rather flammable electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries, eliminating fire risk.

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“There is a big demand for these batteries and a huge demand to make them safer,” said lead researcher Joseph DeSimone of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Researchers have been looking to replace this electrolyte for years, but nobody had ever thought to use this material called perfluoropolyether, or PFPE, as the main electrolyte material in lithium-ion batteries before.”

PFPE has been used in industrial machinery for years. After realizing that the material’s chemical structure was similar to a polymer electrolyte commonly used in lithium-ion batteries, DeSimone figured that the non-flammable PFPE might make a good electrolyte substitute. The material did turn out to be compatible for use in a battery, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before such a battery can be scaled up for commercial use; conductivity issues and battery cycle improvements will need to be studied further.
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