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New batteries fix themselves

Self-healing versions last longer and are less likely to burst into flames

By
12:29pm, February 21, 2011

WASHINGTON — A newly created lithium-ion battery that can heal itself may improve the life span and safety of today’s energy-storage technologies, researchers report.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries power cell phones, laptops and other portable electronics. But, like any batteries, they tend to break down over time.

"There are many different types of degradation that happen, and fixing this degradation could help us make longer-lasting batteries," said Scott White, a materials engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who reported the details of the battery February 20 at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

One site of damage is the anode, a battery’s negatively charged terminal. As a battery charges and discharges, the anode swells and shrinks. Over time, this cycling causes damage, creating cracks that can interfere with the flow of current and, ultimately, kill the battery.

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