'SAFIRE' Design Prevents Lithium-Ion Battery Fires

Researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a safer lithium-ion battery design called the Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte (SAFIRE). “In a lithium-ion battery, a thin piece of plastic separates the two electrodes,” says Gabriel Veith of ORNL. “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.” To make these batteries safer, some researchers use a nonflammable solid electrolyte, but Veith says that these solid-state batteries require retooling of the current production process. His team mixes an additive into the conventional electrolyte to create an impact-resistant electrolyte. It solidifies when hit, preventing the electrodes from touching if the battery is damaged during a fall or crash. Incorporating the additive would require only minor adjustments to the conventional battery manufacturing process.