New battery tech issues warning before overheating or explosion

Researchers develop smart lithium battery that issues warning in case of potential fire explosion.

By Silky Malhotra Published Date
15 - Oct - 2014
| Last Updated
15 - Oct - 2014
New battery tech issues warning before overheating or explosion

Scientists have developed a "smart" lithium-ion battery that issues a warning before it overheats or explodes. The new technology is designed to work on lithium-ion batteries used in billions of cellphones, laptops as well as other electronic devices.

One of the reasons of lithium-ion battery explosions is internal short-circuiting. The scientists have developed a technology that involves a layer of copper positioned between the two aforementioned electrodes that will cause the battery's voltage to drop if a leak happens. The drop in voltage will alert the user that something is wrong and the battery needs changed before a fire or explosion happens.

Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering stated, "Our goal is to create an early-warning system that saves lives and property. The system can detect problems that occur during the normal operation of a battery, but it does not apply to batteries damaged in a collision or other accident."

"You might get a message on your phone telling you that the voltage has dropped to zero, so the battery needs to be replaced," Zhuo said. "That would give you plenty of lead time. But when you see smoke or a fire, you have to shut down immediately. You might not have time to escape."

Most lithium-ion batteries are used in small electronic devices. "But as the electric vehicle market expands and we start to replace on-board electronics on airplanes, this will become a much larger problem," Zhuo said.

"The bigger the battery pack, the more important this becomes," Cui added. "Some electric cars today are equipped with thousands of lithium-ion battery cells. If one battery explodes, the whole pack can potentially explode."

The early-warning technology can also be used in zinc, aluminum and other metal batteries. "It will work in any battery that would require you to detect a short before it explodes," Cui said.

Cui and his colleagues describe the new technology in a study published in the Oct. 13 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Recently concern about the safety of lithium-ion batteries have been raised. In 2006 Sony had to recalled millions of batteries due to reports of a dozen laptop fires. In 2013, a Boeing aircraft company temporarily grounded its new 787 Dreamliner fleet after battery packs in two airplanes caught fire. Read: Delhi boy suffers eye injuries after mobile battery explodes