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Photos: Bill Joy, Ionic Materials; Illustration: Rebecca Zisser

If you were to draw up a list of the most-needed technologies, a better battery would likely be near the top. Well, several years ago, then a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Bill Joy drew up just such a list and came to a similar conclusion.

Joy, the co-founder of legendary Sun Microsystems, set about trying to find a breakthrough technology and landed on Ionic Materials, a 25-person Massachusetts-based company that aims to make batteries safer and cheaper by removing liquids from the equation. Instead, Ionic's approach uses a solid plastic-like polymer instead of the liquid electrolyte.

The benefits: "It's better, it's simpler. It's cleaner. It costs less," Joy said. Most importantly, the polymer won't easily ignite, unlike lithium-ion batteries. (A company video even shows an Ionic battery being pierced by bullets.)

The downsides: According to Joy, there really aren't any. That said, the one thing Ionic's technology isn't, is commercially available. And availability could still be years off. it's one thing to get something working in small batches, and quite another to manufacture it in the hundreds of millions.

Ionic has been working on this for several years. How long will it take to reach the market?

"I think the first batteries you will see containing the polymer will be a couple years from now."

Where will we see such batteries first, in cars, or in phones?

"While the impact is probably even greater in transportation, I think you will see it used in consumer first."

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

The bomb cyclone and atmospheric river seen via satellite on Sunday. The center of the storm is at the middle of the comma shape, due west of Washington State. (CIRA/RAMMB)

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (left) and Sen. Joe Manchin at the U.S. Capitol in 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.