TECH
09/13/2011 11:14 pm ET | Updated Nov 13, 2011

Jelly Batteries: Could Gel Replace Liquid In Lithium Batteries?

British researchers have invented a new gel that could replace the current liquid electrolyte used in lithium batteries.

The "jelly" might allow for "smaller, cheaper and safer gadgets," and could improve electronic efficiency, the BBC reports.

The gel would take the place of a harmful liquid electrolyte found in lithium batteries. "If the [new] battery is punctured, the electrolyte will not leak," according to Slash Gear.

Current lithium batteries tend to overheat and can be a fire risk. The jelly-based batteries keep at a cooler temperature and will reportedly be cheaper to produce.

The new jelly batteries were developed by Professor Ian Ward from the University of Leeds. The product has been licensed to Polystor Energy Corporation, an American company, according to Printed Electronics World.

Currently, electronics such as laptops, cameras and phones are all operated by lithium batteries, and some electronic manufacturers are already weighing the pros and cons of the new product.

A blogger on Know Your Mobile, for example, points out that jelly polymer batteries could allow for more power, potentially leading to longer battery life for devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Ward described the jelly polymer to Printed Electronics World:

"The polymer gel looks like a solid film, but it actually contains about 70% liquid electrolyte" said Professor Ward. "It's made using the same principles as making a jelly: you add lots of hot water to 'gelatine' - in this case there is a polymer and electrolyte mix - and as it cools it sets to form a solid but flexible mass"

In addition to decreasing price and increasing efficiency, the batteries' jelly consistency would allow for adaptability to fit into large or small devices, The Register reports.

A "jelly" battery may only be the beginning: scientists have also experimented with "air-fueled" batteries and the IBM lab has researched lithium air batteries. A Chinese designer even created a concept for a Coca-Cola powered phone.

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