An MIT spinout is preparing to commercialize a new rechargeable lithium metal battery that offers double the energy capacity of the lithium ion batteries that power many of today’s consumer electronics. This invention may actually prove to be revolutionary, with the company aiming to enter production next year.
Founded in 2012 by MIT alumnus and former postdoc Qichao Hu ’07, SolidEnergy Systems has developed an “anode-free” lithium metal battery with several material advances that make it twice as energy-dense, yet just as safe and long-lasting as the lithium ion batteries used in smartphones, electric cars, wearables, drones, and other devices.
“With two-times the energy density, we can make a battery half the size, but that still lasts the same amount of time, as a lithium ion battery. Or we can make a battery the same size as a lithium ion battery, but now it will last twice as long,” says Hu, who co-invented the battery at MIT and is now CEO of SolidEnergy.
The difference with this tech? It’s essentially a very minor variant on existing lithium ion batteries, making it practical to manufacture them on existing production lines. Not only that, but the company has already successfully demonstrated that it works in a prototype iPhone 6 battery.
The battery essentially swaps out a common battery anode material, graphite, for very thin, high-energy lithium-metal foil, which can hold more ions — and, therefore, provide more energy capacity. Chemical modifications to the electrolyte also make the typically short-lived and volatile lithium metal batteries rechargeable and safer to use. Moreover, the batteries are made using existing lithium ion manufacturing equipment, which makes them scalable.
Because the batteries offer twice the energy density, you’d be able to double the battery-life of a product without increasing the size of the battery.
This invention would be revolutionary, to various future consumers, but more so to companies like Apple who will use the tech to instead provide the same amount of battery life as today in ever-slimmer devices.