Scientists seem to have developed a way to introduce flame retardant into a lithium ion battery to prevent fires from occurring. Recent reports of consumer electronics catching fire due to lithium batteries have caused safety issues in the electronic industry. Researchers have put efforts to prevent devices from short-circuiting or overheating, or attempting to put flame retardant directly in the batteries, but the success rate has been very low.
The new researchers focus does not prevent the battery from overheating; instead it is able to prevent fire. It involves using a common flame in an extremely tiny sheath made of plastic fibers and then inserting several of them into the electrolyte that sits between the anode and cathode. The plastic fibers can melt at 160° Celsius—if that temperature is reached, the plastic melts and the retardant is released into the electrolyte quashing a potential fire.
With the energy densities of batteries continuing to increase, safety problems associated with the use of highly flammable liquid organic electrolytes remain a big issue. An encapsulation of a flame retardant inside a protective polymer shell has prevented direct dissolution of the retardant agent into the electrolyte, which could otherwise have negative effects on battery performance.