Self-Repairing Battery Technology Advances

Self-Repairing Battery Technology Advances

Self-healing of an electrical circuit is demonstrated with nearly full recovery of conductance less than one millisecond after damage. Crack damage breaks a conductive pathway in a multilayer device, interrupting electron transport and simultaneously rupturing adjacent microcapsules containing gallium–indium liquid metal (top). The released liquid metal flows to the area of damage, restoring the conductive pathway (bottom).

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The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory to develop batteries capable of healing themselves when damaged. “This would help electronics survive daily use—both the long-term damage caused by charging over and over again, and also the inevitable physical damage of everyday life,” explained Jeff Moore, a scientist from the university in an announcement.

The researchers embedded tiny liquid-metal filled microspheres within the battery. The microspheres remain dormant until the battery is damaged, at which point they burst and release the liquid metal contained within to fill the gaps in the electrical circuit. The capsules could be engineered to release their payload as a response to damage or overheating.

The researchers tested the simple version of the technology by connecting an electrode with a wire to determine whether the capsules could repair the circuit after cutting it. It worked in less than a millisecond.

The scientists next plan on testing the capsules in a prototype battery. Khalil Amine, a materials scientist from Argonne, is assisting Nancy Sottos and Scott White from University of Illinois to implement the technology in lithium-ion batteries.

Image: Liquid-metal filled microcapsules sitting on a gold conductive layer burst if damaged to repair the conductive pathway. Image courtesy of Amanda Jones and Ben Blaiszik.

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