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When it comes to the next moonshot in battery technology, there are quite a few possibilities. But one of the more promising ones is solid-state batteries.
The majority of our consumer electronic products today run on lithium-ion batteries. And while the technology works fine, they have a number of disadvantages — namely battery life, longevity, and the fact that they can explode.
Apple is rumored to be working on fuel cell batteries. But unlike fuel cells, which are still years off for consumer products, solid-state batteries may already be here..
Basically, solid-state batteries use a solid material rather than liquid for their electrolyte. They show incredible promise for powering everything from iPhones to self-driving electric vehicles and Internet-of-Things devices.
But they also offer a wide range of benefits over traditional lithium-ion batteries.
For one, they degrade much less and are capable of holding more energy and recharging much faster than lithium-ion batteries. In other words, they could help us realize our dreams of a smartphone battery that lasts up to a week on a charge.
Because solid-state batteries are more energy-dense, they can be made smaller than lithium-ion batteries. That could lead to smaller and thinner smartphones, as well as usage in a variety of wearables and other electronics.
They also have no liquid to leak or any flammable vapor to give off. That basically rules out any risk of a battery catching fire or exploding — one of the documented risks of lithium-ion packs.
One of the technology firms spearheading the development of solid-state batteries is Japan-based TDK.
According to Nikkei Asian Review, TDK began shipping small samples of their proprietary CeraCharge solid-state batteries earlier this year.
CeraCharge is described as being smaller than a grain of sand. TDK says it can churn out about 30,000 CeraCharge batteries a month.
And while they won’t be powering your iPhone or Tesla, TDK specifically created CeraCharge as a replacement for traditional coin cell batteries.
The technology relies on a lithium-based ceramic oxide as its electrolyte. That solid is then layered into a battery pack. TDK says it’ll work just as well in high- and low-temperature environments.
And TDK isn’t the only firm working on solid-state battery tech. Japanese firms such as Murata Manufacturing and Taiyo Yuden are also leading the way in developing products similar to CeraCharge.
While smaller solid-state batteries are being tested now, most experts agree that larger ones that can power smartphones or cars are years away.
Still, there are other companies working on beating that expectation — including Fisker Automotive CEO Henrik Fisker, who claims that he is “close” to a breakthrough in the technology, The Verge reported.
But with many conservative estimates suggesting we could see adoption of solid-state batteries in the mid-2020s, the future of battery technology may be just around the corner.