A team of researchers have developed a prototype battery that could stop itself catching fire should the worst happen.
As Samsung found out last year, lithium-ion batteries can catch fire and explode. It's the downside of a technology that is otherwise highly useful in powering all kinds of technology, from smartphones to digital cameras.
The risk of the units catching fire is low in relation to how many devices happily work without ever catching on fire, but with devices demanding ever more juice to keep them powered, the risks could increase.
"Lithium-ion batteries are considered to be one of the most promising power sources of electric vehicles because of their high specific energy densities, stable cycling performance, and other related qualities," the researchers state in their findings in the journal Science.
"Although the energy densities of batteries continue to increase, safety problems remain a big issue, significantly hindering their further practical applications."
To attempt to mitigate this issue, the researchers explained that they have fitted a lithium-ion battery within a shell made of a flame-retardant chemical called triphenyl phosphate (TTP).
This works to put out the fire should the battery start to overheat, but does not come into contact with the battery before then.
"The encapsulation of a flame retardant inside a protective polymer shell has prevented direct dissolution of the retardant agent into the electrolyte, which would otherwise have negative effects on battery performance," they said.
"During thermal runaway of the lithium-ion battery, the protective polymer shell would melt, triggered by the increased temperature, and the flame retardant would be released, thus effectively suppressing the combustion of the highly flammable electrolytes."
Effectively if the battery overheats the shell keeping the battery and the TTP apart is destroyed, allowing the TTP to stop the fire spreading.The researchers said the chemical acted within 0.4 seconds during tests, stopping the risk of fire before it has a chance to cause significant damage to the device or its surroundings.
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