August 19, 2014
Solid-state batteries, which have been used for wireless sensors but are typically considered too expensive for most devices, can now be manufactured much cheaper, according to Applied Materials. The company, which supplies equipment for semiconductor and display industries, says that these longer lasting batteries can be used in anything from smartwatches to electric cars. The company plans its first commercial use of the batteries in wearable devices, where size is a limitation.
“In solid-state batteries the liquid electrolytes normally used in conventional lithium-ion batteries are replaced with solid ones, which makes it possible to replace conventional electrodes with lithium metal ones that hold far more energy,” reports MIT Technology Review. “Doing away with the liquid electrolyte, which is flammable, can also improve the safety of batteries, which leads to cost and size savings, particularly in electric vehicles, by reducing the need for complex cooling systems.”
“The thing that’s holding [solid-state batteries] back is materials processing and the cost,” said Andy Chu, head of marketing for energy storage solutions at Applied Materials. “We’re addressing these problems. That will allow you to take this to high volume.”
The company plans its first commercial use of these batteries to be in smaller equipment like wearable devices. The use of solid-state batteries in smaller devices is easier than conventional batteries because the solid electrolytes are more flexible than liquid, which needs to be contained.
“One perennial challenge with solid-state batteries has been that the solid electrolyte, which isn’t as conductive as liquid ones, tends to limit power output,” notes Technology Review. “Applied Materials says it is working on ways to improve that conductivity by doping the solid electrolyte, much as you would dope semiconductor materials for chips.”