Lithium ion batteries are both a boon and a bane to the smartphone industry. On the one hand. they get better and better each year at giving us battery life that lasts the whole day for phones that are faster and sharper and more capable, but on the other hand, they explode. But there might be a simple solution to this problem: switch to solid state batteries.
The battery is primitive technology for sure. We are technically using the same technology that has been powering the oldest automobile engine for over a century. But, they’re the best shot we have at portable energy right now. However, they could certainly use some improvement. Lithium ion batteries have been exploding long before the Note 7 came along and broke all the records, yet the magnitude of the incident has shone light on how much we need to leave this technology behind. And the soloution is solid state batteries.
Solid state electrolytes are currently being used in wearable devices, RFID and IoT. They are much safer, have higher energy densities and longer life cycles. The last two top the list of what consumers want their smartphone to have year after year whether it’s an iPhone or any Android device. However, the solid state batteries are much more expensive than liquid electrolytes. Dr. Lorenzo Grande, a technology analyst at IDTechEx says, “the cost per square meter goes up exponentially with the size of the battery you want to make.” Common lithium ion batteries found in phones would cost thousands of dollars if made with solid electrolytes. That’s why they’re only used in thin film batteries.
Liquid electrolytes mean that there is a lot of flammable liquid in the batteries. That’s why so many incidents of exploding phones have been reported over the years. The race to make sure thinner and thinner phones are made each year coupled with making sure the batteries get more efficient and don’t catch on fire while squeezed in to that tiny space with so much power adds up to a recipe for disaster.
Dr. Grande says that because of such a disaster at Samsung, they might be the first to introduce solid state electrolytes even though it may eat in to their profit. They may save billions in the long run though and become game changers in the industry.
However, Dr. Grande also predicts that this tech won’t be ready for consumers until the next 5 years or so. He predicts that the drone industry and wearables will be the first to mass produce the technology and smartphones will eventually follow.