Who

The Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte (SAFIRE) fire-resistant battery can be used in consumer electronics such as cellphones, in drones and cars, and in soldiers’ packs.

What

Adding powdered silica (in blue container) to the polymer layer (white sheet) that separates electrodes inside a test battery (gold bag) will prevent lithium-ion battery fires. (Credit: Gabriel Veith)

Lithium-ion batteries are notorious for bursting into flames when damaged or improperly packaged. In lithium-ion batteries, a thin piece of plastic separates the two electrodes. If the battery is damaged and the plastic layer fails, the electrodes can come into contact and cause the battery’s liquid electrolyte to catch fire. The SAFIRE battery design incorporates an additive into the conventional electrolyte to create an impact-resistant electrolyte that solidifies when hit, preventing the electrodes from touching if the battery is damaged during a fall or crash. If the electrodes don’t touch each other, the battery doesn’t catch fire. Incorporating the additive would require only minor adjustments to the conventional battery manufacturing process. The battery colloid consists of silica suspended in common liquid electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries. On impact, the silica particles clump together and block the flow of fluids and ions. Perfectly spherical, 200-nanometer-diameter particles of silica were used — essentially, a superfine sand.

Where

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, TN

When

The researchers are seeking a patent on their technique.

Why

Incidents involving lithium-ion batteries bursting into flames occasionally have grave consequences, including burns, house fires, and at least one plane crash. The SAFIRE design results in the electrolyte functioning as a safety feature of the battery and eliminating the risk of thermal runaway that leads to fire. The design can be enhanced so the part of the battery that’s damaged in a crash would remain solid, while the rest of the battery would go on working.

See how it works in the video on Tech Briefs TV here. Contact Mike Paulus, Technology Transfer Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 865-574-1051.

Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2018 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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