Wisconsin Professors Set To Roll Out Safer Lithium-Ion Battery

Lithium-ion batteries power the world's mobile devices, but they also run the risk of overheating, igniting and even exploding.

A major Japanese battery manufacturer is preparing to test a new, safer lithium-ion battery pioneered by two University of Wisconsin chemists.

Silatronix, co-founded by professors Robert Hamers and Robert West a decade ago, cannot identify the company set to pilot test its technology, but Hamers said that it is known worldwide.

Lithium-ion batteries power the world's mobile devices, but they also run the risk of overheating, igniting and even exploding.

Hamers and West, however, incorporated silicon into an electrolyte, which carries electrons between battery electrodes. Their electrolyte was more stable -- and therefore less likely to break down and burn.

The battery industry was initially hesitant to embrace the technology despite the safety benefits, but subsequent Silatronix development led to third-generation compounds that improve performance while remaining less flammable.

“Now we can charge the battery to a higher voltage, yielding more energy capacity per unit of weight,” Hamers said.

After several years of evaluation, the chemists said that the battery is ready for pilot production. Full production is scheduled for 2017.

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