IT Solutions: Smartphone batteries with twice the life may arrive in 2017

SolidEnergy is preparing to commercialize its “lithium metal” tech

A type of lithium battery that could make gasoline-powered cars obsolete is on track to be commercialized, according to MIT News. The “lithium metal” batteries, developed by MIT spin-off SolidEnergy, can reportedly pack the same energy as a standard lithium-ion cell in half the size. “Or, we can make a battery the same size as a lithium ion battery, but now it will last twice as long“, says SolidEnergy CEO Qichao Hu.

Researchers have been working on batteries that use lithium metal instead of carbon anodes for awhile. However, nobody had cracked the problem of increased resistance and “dendrite” filaments that form on the anodes, making batteries short-circuit and heat up. While at MIT, Hu developed a thin lithium metal foil anode that did reduce battery size considerably. However, it wouldn’t work unless the battery was heated up to 175 degrees Fahrenheit, an obvious “showstopper“, he says.

The company now has its own facility and is building towards a November 2016 launch with drone batteries. Following that, it plans to commercialize cells for smartphones and other electronics in 2017, with EV batteries to follow in 2018. In theory, electric cars using the tech could go twice as far with the same size battery.

Obviously, that would be game-changing, but we’ve heard this tune before. A123 itself was trying to commercialize very promising-sounding batteries, and failed. We’d like to hear SolidEnergy’s latest charging cycle figures – last we heard, it could handle 300 cycles and still retain 80 percent capacity, which is good for electronics but may be too little for an EV. Also, we’ve been disappointed with battery “breakthroughs” so often, that we’ll believe it when we see them on a store shelf.

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