In BriefCould we finally be close to having a solid-state battery? One small Massachusetts company claims that their new material may be the key to unlocking this technology — prompting an outpouring of investment.
According to Axios, technology giants like Samsung and Dyson have collectively invested $65 million in Massachusetts-based Ionic Materials. This enormous vote of confidence is a bit shocking, as most people probably haven’t even heard of the small company before. But if Ionic Materials delivers on its recent claims, the investment will certainly pay off. It claims to be close to creating a safe, working solid-state battery.
The company, established in 1986, seems to be making unique progress in solid-state technology. It has created a brand new material — a liquid crystal polymer — that could solve many of the pressing issues that prevent this type of battery from entering the market.
So far, Ionic Materials’ researchers have claimed three major breakthroughs. First, they assert that lithium ions move as fast or even faster through their polymer than they would through a conventional liquid electrolyte system. This seems counter-intuitive since the polymer is a solid, but if it is true, this would clear a huge hurtle to creating working solid-state batteries.
Second, they say that their material works at an impressive five volts and can be made simply and cheaply. Third, they’ve stated that, while most materials in solid-state research operate at about 60° C (140° F), their material works under much cooler conditions — room temperature.
Ionic Materials seems to have a leg up on competitors with its unique, cheap, and simple-to-produce material. But, if they are correct in their assertions, why would a solid-state battery be so groundbreaking?
They are safer than current batteries, for one thing. Lithium-ion batteries are flammable and prone to overheating and combustion. Solid-state batteries, on the other hand, preserve lithium in a non-flammable state.
Solid-state batteries are also able to be smaller, cheaper to make, and higher capacity than liquid-based batteries. They could potentially charge faster, last longer, and have better overall performance. They could even make better smartphones and electric cars possible.
The main challenge to realizing solid-state batteries has been discovering a material with all of the right properties. If Ionic Materials is right and their polymer is the one to beat, we could be closer to solid-state batteries than ever before. Still, the company has not released much data on their technology, so many experts remain skeptical of how close the researchers actually are to a working product, according to Axios.