8 technologies that could make lithium batteries safer (or obsolete)

39a8379a-1637-40c6-b93c-09dd23e9a8beIf you ship lithium batteries, or anything with batteries in it, your job seems to get more challenging every week. New battery-shipping rules have made some air transport all but impossible, and the regulatory landscape—er, airscape—is primed for more restrictions.

Do you sometimes wish lithium batteries would just go away?

Dream on! Battery power is gaining momentum, and some people think it can save humanity from mass extinction.

But that doesn’t mean the technology can’t get better, cooler and safer.

Better batteries from nature

Current lithium batteries are made from industrial material: metal oxides, salts and solvents that combine to store and conduct electricity. But nature is full of materials that can play the same roles, and scientists have come up with some cool possibilities:

  1. The rotten apple battery. Researchers in Germany have repurposed dried waste apples into “hard carbon,” a cheap but high-performing electrode material. They build these carbon anodes into sodium-ion batteries, which currently underperform lithium-ion by 20% but cost far less to produce.
  2. The mushroom battery. Mushrooms are incredibly porous, so researchers in California replaced the synthetic graphite in lithium-ion batteries with mushroom tissue. More space for lithium ions translates into more capacity, in batteries that are “pretty much biodegradable.”
  3. The pollen battery. Along the same lines, researchers at Purdue University have created anodes from bee and cattail pollens. They work. No data yet on whether they also make you sneeze.
  4. The human energy battery. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a paper-thin device the size of a stamp that harvests energy from human motion. They insist these batteries would power wearable devices, not evil world-dominating robots that turn humans into batteries.

Better batteries from conventional materials

Meanwhile, back in the world of metals, scientists are raising the bar on what batteries can accomplish:

  1. The self-cooling battery. What if a lithium-ion battery contained a protective polymer that changed structure when exposed to heat, blocking the flow of current and letting the battery cool? Researchers at Stanford University are making it happen.
  2. The superoxide battery. At Argonne National laboratory, scientists have enabled the production of stable crystallized lithium superoxide (LiO2) instead of lithium peroxide (Li2O2) during battery discharging. The technology potentially offers five times more energy density than lithium-ion, in a safer “closed system.”
  3. The aluminum graphite, 60-second-charging battery. Researchers at Stanford University (again) have developed a rechargeable aluminum battery that will change civilization as we know it by fully recharging in as little as one minute. Not only that: “Our new battery won’t catch fire, even if you drill through it.”

Safer battery packaging

What if batteries could be packaged so they wouldn’t pose any harm to other cargo or the plane itself?

  1. The self-cooling battery container. Many companies have developed technologies for controlling battery fires and/or extinguishing them more quickly. But Labelmaster is working to prevent thermal runaway in the first place, with packaging materials that dramatically cool a lithium battery when it gets to a certain temperature, effectively stopping any fire before it begins.

Until these advances become commercial realities, you’re stuck with lithium batteries. But they don’t have to be a shipping nightmare! Labelmaster offers safe, compliant lithium battery packaging—along with answers to all your questions—that make battery shipping as painless as possible.

Mushrooms not included.

Make sure your shipments are safe and in full compliance with a full line of solutions from Labelmaster—a full-service provider of goods and services for hazardous materials and Dangerous Goods professionals, shippers, transport operators and EH&S providers.


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