Traditional battery design has relied on liquid eletrolytes to help charged particles travel between a battery’s anode and its cathode. Rechargeable batteries use chemicals like lithium to do the heavy lifting, but lithium isn’t very stable, and it can overheat or ignite. That’s a flaw that many portable electronics have suffered from in recent years.
As the demand for power increases, the size of the battery must also increase. The practical size of a battery is limited by a few concerns – weight, size and safety. To ensure that batteries remain relatively safe, engineers have sacrificed their size. That means battery-operated devices must be recharged more frequently, and they harness only a fraction of the power they could store at any given time.
Using a solid electrolyte would eliminate problems with leakage and volatility, and could increase the amount of power a battery could hold. The Iowa State University researchers believe that glass may be the ideal solid electrolyte medium, but more research needs to be done to figure out how to get charged particles to move through solids.
The research, which is funded by a three-year grant from the US Department of Energy, could answer that question. Conventional silica-based glass is roundly recognized as an insulator – a material that frustrates the movement of charged particles. But sulfide glasses are much more conductive, and may provide a starting point for finding and understanding conductive glasses.
The team’s research could lead to the development of novel, conductive glasses and could demonstrate the usefulness of solid electrolytes in rechargeable batteries.
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