You may not realize it, but the battery that powers most of your gadgets are dangerous things. If handled incorrectly, Lithium-ion batteries can be health hazards, and if conditions are right, they even explode and catch fire. Enter a new breed of batteries based on a material that’s more likely to be found in desserts than in batteries. Polymer jelly is now being used to replace the volatile and hazardous liquid electrolyte currently used in most lithium batteries. Developed by researchers from the University of Leeds, these Jelly-based batteries would one day lead to cheaper, lighter and more efficient gadgets and may be the power source of the next generation of electric cars. The researchers claim that the new batteries are as efficient (if not more so) than the current batch of batteries sold today but cost only 10-20% to manufacture when compared to traditional lithium batteries.
“The polymer gel looks like a solid film, but it actually contains about 70% liquid electrolyte,” explained the study’s lead author, Professor Ian Ward from the University of Leeds. “Safety is of paramount importance in lithium batteries. Conventional lithium batteries use electrolytes based on organic liquids; this is what you see burning in pictures of lithium batteries that catch fire. Replacing liquid electrolytes by a polymer or gel electrolyte should improve safety and lead to an all-solid-state cell,” said Professor Peter Bruce from the University of St Andrews, who was not involved in the study.