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The search for technologies enabling safer battery use has brought about new developments. American Lithium Energy’s wearable battery was shot with a high-powered military rifle as part of a test. The bullet-proof battery didn’t explode or catch fire. The small company, which mostly supplies batteries to the U.S. military, believes it has come up with technology to improve safety in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries — the power source for a growing number of electronic gadgets ranging from cell phones to laptops to electric cars to home energy storage.
The technology is applicable in all battery chemistries including solid state. It protects against overcharge, internal short and external heat. The batteries are designed for use in the most demanding military and commercial applications where energy, power, and safety are critical, according to the company’s website.
The technology, named Safe Core, is complicated. “We put a fuse inside the cell, so when something is wrong inside, our fuse will kick in and break the current and the battery will be safe,” said the company’s president and co-founder Jiang Fan, who has a doctorate in solid-state chemistry from Arizona State University.
According to toledoblade.com, reports of lithium-ion batteries bursting into flames have made headlines over the years, most recently with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7. The South Korean electronics giant spent $5.3 billion recalling the flagship smartphone, which became infamous at airports as passengers heard announcements for months that the Note 7 wouldn’t be allowed onboard.
American Lithium, which has delivered more than 20,000 batteries to Department of Defense customers since 2011, recently spun out a new company called Amionx to commercialize its Safe Core technology. It has two patents issued and four pending. It hopes to license the technology for use in lithium-ion batteries globally. However, the company isn’t alone in trying to make lithium-ion batteries safer. Several startups and research labs are working on new techniques, including using solid materials which are less volatile than that used in today’s lithium-ion batteries.
The transition to next-generation batteries is probably years away. American Lithium contends its technology can be rolled out in existing battery production lines in as little as six months without a significant increase in capital equipment costs or bill of materials expense.
Mr. Fan said the company has included the technology in its own battery manufacturing for its military customers.
American Lithium may be onto something, said Brian Morin, president of Dreamweaver International, a provider of advanced technology for batteries. “Not having dug into their technology but having read the patent, the concept works,” said Mr. Morin, a board member of the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries, a trade group focused on electrochemical energy storage technology. “Whether the implementation works or not I don’t know. But the concept works.”