Reports of lithium-ion batteries overheating and bursting into flames have grounded flights and been the cause of product recalls. Stanford scientists may have solved the problem with the development of a ‘smart’ lithium-ion battery that alerts users of potential overheating problems.
The scientists found by placing a nanolayer of copper to one side of an ultrathin polymer; the copper acts as a sensor. They were able to measure voltage differences between a carbon anode and lithium metal-oxide cathode. When the build-up of dendrites reach the copper layer, the battery voltage drops to zero, and an alert message can be sent to the user. The early-warning technology could also be used in zinc, aluminum, and other metal batteries.