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A new coating may be the key to lighter lithium metal batteries



The problem with lithium metal batteries is that they often develop small, stick-like protrusions called dendrites. Over time, dendrites can puncture the protective film that separates the positive and negative ends of the battery. And when the two sides start interacting with each other, there is the potential for a short circuit, which in turn can cause the entire power cell to fire.

Now a team of researchers at Stanford University think they have solved that problem. The researchers created a protective coating that significantly limits dendrite growth. With the new film, the team says they were able to build a lithium metal battery that contained 85 percent of the original charge after 1

60 charging cycles. By contrast, most current lithium metal batteries tend to hold 30 percent of the original charge when they reach the same point in life.

Any gadget would benefit from a lighter battery with higher capacity, but the technology would be a game-changer for electric vehicles (EVs). As the research team points out, most EVs use about a quarter of their battery capacity to carry around the power source. With lithium metal batteries, the range of EVs would increase significantly.

Of course, the challenge, as with most new battery technologies, is to get the new technologist out of the lab and into the field. In particular, the Stanford team says the protective coating only overcomes "some" of the problems associated with lithium metal batteries. In short, at best, it will probably still be years before lithium-metal batteries make their way to consumer electronics, which is emphasized by Stanford first starting to talk about the potential of the technology in 2015.


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