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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nitash Balsara, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, is building a new kind of lithium battery. Unlike the rechargeable lithium ion batteries that now power cell phones and laptops, this battery contains lithium metal foil—which could dramatically increase the amount of charge that such batteries can hold. "We are trying to make a battery that goes beyond what lithium ion can deliver today in terms of energy density," said Balsara.
This approach to battery chemistry has been tried before—with limited success—because over time lithium tends to build up inside these batteries in structures called "dendrites" that lead to short circuits and cut the lifetime of the battery. But now Balsara's group has made a step forward in countering this problem. Instead of using a liquid electrolyte to allow charged particles to flow—as would be found in other kinds of batteries—they use a solid block copolymer. At this year's APS meeting, they will present a new block copolymer electrolyte, polystyrene-block-poly(ethylene oxide), that resists short circuiting at least two orders of magnitude longer, increasing the number of times that a battery based on this architecture could by cycled. The technology is still years from the market and still faces technological hurdles—such a battery would likely take a long time to recharge, for example. But it could someday provide a jolt in battery technology for the electric car industry.
The American Physical Society is the leading professional organization of physicists, representing more than 48,000 physicists in academia and industry in the United States and internationally. APS has offices in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, D.C.
Headquartered in College Park, MD, the American Institute of Physics is a not-for-profit membership corporation chartered in New York State in 1931 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics and its application to human welfare.