Startup creates new type of electrolyte for better and cheaper lithium ion battery

Jun 05, 2012 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org) -- The problem with lithium ion batteries, the kind used in cars, cellphones and other devices, is that they don’t hold enough energy relative to their size. Small batteries mean constantly recharging your phone while big batteries add a lot of weight and cost to the price of an electric car. What’s needed, most experts agree, is a new kind of electrolyte, the material that sits between the anode and cathode in a lithium ion battery. Now a new startup thinks they’ve found it. Called Iolyte, the new material is flame retardant, doesn’t evaporate and is able to hold more charge than current electrolytes.

The startup, called Boulder Ionics, has apparently found a way to get more bang for the buck with lithium ion batteries by creating a liquid out of ionic salts that performs better than anything else currently being used. They say, for example, that a regular car battery, the kind used in gasoline powered vehicles to start the engine, using its new electrolyte, would be reduced from the current size to something no bigger than a flashlight. Thus far the company has built and shown off key pieces of its technology and that has been enough to attract $4.3 million in investment funds, which suggests the companies claims are realistic. A better example perhaps of the new technology would be a cell phone battery that lasts ten times as long.

The company says that the new electrolyte could be used with so called supercapacitors as well, which are capacitors that charge much more quickly than standard ones and can also hold a much higher charge. Such supercapacitors have seen limited use thus far due to their high cost and limited voltage range. Boulder Ionics thinks it can change all that with its new electrolyte, which would pave the way for cheaper storage systems for solar or wind farms.

Another way the new electrolyte might be used, is with metal-air batteries (those that use oxidation of metal with oxygen in air to create electricity) which could theoretically mean a tenfold increase of power capacity over those currently in use.

In addition to the special properties of the new electrolyte, Boulder Ionics says it has developed a new way to manufacture electrolytes in general that is much faster, takes less room and costs less than conventional methods, which they say means they will be able to sell their electrolytes at much lower cost, meaning electric vehicles could finally come down in price, as could general consumer electronics devices of course.

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User comments : 12

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SteveL
5 / 5 (3) Jun 05, 2012
I'd love to see this work. But if the claims are that the same electrolyte is used for supercapacitors, lithium batteries, lead acid batteries and possibly with metal-air batteries, well I have got to see that to believe it. They just don't work the same.
hemitite
not rated yet Jun 05, 2012
...and we have just tested a new low calorie product: Electro-lite!
wiyosaya
3 / 5 (2) Jun 05, 2012
I agree. This sounds a little too sensationalistic. Anyone can claim anything. If this really works, I would like an independent verification of these claims.
Shakescene21
not rated yet Jun 05, 2012
Ditto. This could be the biggest Physorg article of the year if it is true, but they haven't really told us much about this miraculous elecrolyte.
Terriva
1 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2012
There are dozens of companies, which are improving lithium cells gradually by all means possible - so I don't quite understand, why some company should be preferred instead of others. This is an applied research and the customers are interested about final products and their cost/quality ratio.
dschlink
5 / 5 (2) Jun 05, 2012
The company's product page http://boulderion...roducts/ says that the lithium electrolyte, the one for batteries using metal anodes, and the one for ultra-capacitors are all different.

Their big boast is a much better, faster and cheaper way of producing ionic liquids.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2012
About a third of the weight and size of a typical lithium-ion battery is the scaffolding and support structure. The rest is divided between the electrodes and the electrolyte. Then there's even more weight in the protective outer and inner casing of the battery pack to wire it all up and protect it from bumps.

It's not very plausible you can get significant advantages by changing the electrolyte alone. The car battery example is notoriously misleading, because simply by using ordinary lithium polymer batteries, it would reduce to 1/6th.

The reason why you don't is because they're not robust enough to survive next to a car engine - at least for very long time.

CapitalismPrevails
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 05, 2012
This could be the biggest Physorg article of the year if it is true, but they haven't really told us much about this miraculous elecrolyte.

Here's a more thorough article on the subject.

http://www.techno...tteries/
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2012
Some info on the various electrolytes can be found here:-
http://boulderion...roducts/

edit:
Gosh someone beat me to it, so lets move on, my son will look at the structure and electrostatic field effects over the exam holidays, thanks
bottomlesssoul
not rated yet Jun 06, 2012
There is no mention in the release or their web site about cycle life.
Shakescene21
not rated yet Jun 06, 2012
@CapitalismPrevails

Thanks for the link to the more complete information. It doesn't answer all the questions, but it provides chemical descriptions of the electrolytes and is relatively useful for a promotional website. A nice feature of the electrolyte is that it isn't composed of rare earths or precious metals. At the end of the batteries' life the halide salts could be recycled.
Shakescene21
not rated yet Jun 06, 2012
It's not very plausible you can get significant advantages by changing the electrolyte alone. The car battery example is notoriously misleading, because simply by using ordinary lithium polymer batteries, it would reduce to 1/6th. The reason why you don't is because they're not robust enough to survive next to a car engine - at least for very long time.


@Eikka
Very interesting points. I still think this could be a major advance even though it's not an order-of-magnitude improvement over current lithium polymer batteries. For example, it might be very useful in the engine bay, where manufacturers are straining the capacity of current systems to provide enough juice for all the electronics.