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Tech transfer — Safer batteries on impact

Several electrolyte and thin-film coating technologies, developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have been licensed by BTRY, a battery technology company based in Virginia, to make batteries with increased energy density, at lower cost, and with an improved safety profile in crashes.

The enabling technologies, called Safe Impact Resistant Electrolytes, or SAFIRE, are particularly suitable for application in the electric vehicles and aerospace industries.

“In a lithium-ion battery, a thin piece of plastic separates the two electrodes,” said ORNL’s Gabriel Veith. “If the battery is damaged and the plastic layer fails, the electrodes can come into contact and cause the battery's liquid electrolyte to catch fire.”

ORNL’s technology mixes an additive into the conventional electrolyte to create an impact-resistant electrolyte. It solidifies when hit, preventing the electrodes from touching if the battery is damaged. This new stability reduces the need for bulky protective shielding.