Jelly Battery  (Source: University of Leeds)
Lithium jelly batteries are safer, thinner, and cheaper than current batteries

Batteries in cars and gadgets often have the same drawbacks. They tend to take a long time to charge and can be dangerous if they overheat or are punctured. A few years back there were widespread recalls after batteries were found to overheat and explode in some laptops.

A group of researchers from the University of Leeds has a new battery design that they hope will be safer and more efficient than current lithium batteries.

Current lithium batteries use a liquid electrolyte. The 
researchers have developed a new lithium jelly that can be used to replace that liquid electrolyte in today’s batteries. The hope is that the new lithium jelly would allow batteries in a laptop to be smaller and therefore lighter and could also make for more efficient electric vehicles

"Safety is of paramount importance in lithium batteries. Conventional lithium batteries use electrolytes based on organic liquids; this is what you see burning in pictures of lithium batteries that catch fire. Replacing liquid electrolytes by a polymer or gel electrolyte should improve safety and lead to an all-solid-state cell," said Professor Peter Bruce from the University of St Andrews, who was not involved in the study.

The jelly wouldn't leak out if the battery were punctured. The jelly batteries would also be able to prevent so-called “thermal runaway” where the battery in a device can quickly reach a very high temperature and catch fire.

The jelly is a rubber-like polymer that has a conductive electrolyte in a flexible gel film that sits between battery electrodes.

"The polymer gel looks like a solid film, but it actually contains about 70% liquid electrolyte," explained the study's lead author, Professor Ian Ward from the University of Leeds. "The remarkable thing is that we can make the separation between the solid and liquid phase at the point that it hits the electrodes."

The intriguing part is that the jelly batteries are said to be a safe as polymer batteries, but perform like liquid filled batteries while costing 10% to 20% less than the other battery types.

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