In recent years, self-healing batteries have become a popular topic of battery research and development, especially focusing on dendrites and how they affect performance of the batteries. As batteries are made up of chemical interactions, there are some adverse effects that people may not be able to control. One of these is the progressive accumulation of ions within the battery. Self-healing batteries have yet to make a commercial breakthrough, but preliminary research has opened the door for safer and longer-lasting batteries. One of the major issues with current lithium-ion battery designs is that battery faults can lead to electrical problems, which can result in explosions and fires. As a result, scientists have been working on strategies to prevent these faults, known as dendrites, from growing in the first place, as well as ways to help them repair themselves. To confront the problem, a novel polymer-based electrolyte developed by University of Illinois researchers makes batteries self-healing and recyclable.
To get around the limitations of liquid electrolytes, the researchers looked into employing solid, ion-conducting polymers.
According to the researchers, batteries made with this electrolyte are less harmful to the environment since the polymer may be recycled without the use of harsh chemicals or high temperatures. As per the researcher at the university, “Anytime you can have anything mend itself, you don't have to replace it as frequently, which saves time, money, and energy” .
Researchers examined the novel material's conductivity and found it to have promising potential as a battery electrolyte; nevertheless, they admitted that further research is needed to make the electrolyte equivalent in performance to those now in use. Despite this, Christopher Evans (a researcher at the university) stated that while the material was intended primarily for batteries, but it “could be used to in energy relevant device such as supercapacitors or fuel cells where self-healing would be beneficial.”
The interconnected polymer can also be recycled without the need of powerful or even dangerous solvents because it dissolves in water at normal temperature. Lithium-ion batteries are still very new, having been developed in the 1970s and just become widely used in the 1990s. In terms of performance enhancements, safer construction, and improved environmental benefits, the options are endless. For the future, this self-healing batteries can replace traditional batteries in electric vehicles and open new pathways in the automotive industry.