New ‘smart’ fibers curb fires in lithium-ion batteries | Science News

MISSION CRITICAL

Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


News in Brief

New ‘smart’ fibers curb fires in lithium-ion batteries

Tiny capsules release flame retardant when temperatures get too hot

By
2:00pm, January 13, 2017
flame resistant fibers

FIRE FIGHTER  To stop battery fires in their tracks, researchers formed tiny fibers containing flame retardant, shown above in an image taken by a scanning electron microscope. If the battery overheats, the fibers’ plastic shells melt, releasing the flame retardant encapsulated inside.

Hoverboards and certain cell phones powered by lithium-ion batteries occasionally go up in flames. Scientists now have a new plan for squelching these fires before they flare out of control: incorporating a flame retardant in the battery that’s released if temperatures get too toasty.

Within lithium-ion batteries, ions travel between positive and negative electrodes through a liquid called an electrolyte. But commonly used electrolytes are highly flammable. And if a short circuit in the battery produces enough heat, the electrolyte can ignite.

Simply adding a flame retardant to the electrolyte makes the battery less efficient. So scientists from Stanford University created a “smart” sheet of tiny fibers containing flame retardant, which could be inserted between a battery’s electrodes, the researchers report January 13 in Science Advances.

Each fiber is reminiscent of

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More Math & Technology articles

From the Nature Index Paid Content