Alison Snyder May 4, 2017
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A ​battery that won't catch fire

Courtesy of Alexej Jerschow, NYU

Navy research chemists designed a battery that claims to solve one of the biggest problems plaguing the industry. Batteries run the risk, under some conditions, of growing small spikes of metal that can pierce other parts of the system, causing it to short circuit and catch fire. The new design seems to solve that issue for devices that use zinc (like the one developed by the Navy). The big question though is whether it could do the same for lithium-ion cells, which dominate the market. The short answer: yes, the design could potentially work for lithium, says the Navy's Debra Rolison.

Why it matters: These dendrite spikes are holding back potentially massive advances in drawing more energy from a lithium-ion battery. Batteries are a multi-billion dollar business with even more money to be made in a not-so-far-off-future where electric cars and maybe even airplanes are commonplace. Those markets will demand more energy output and less risks.