Current battery technology involves the movement of lithium ions between a battery’s anode and cathode during charging and use. That charge is carried in a liquid electrolyte solution, which is highly volatile and capable of catching fire in the event of a short circuit.
As a result, there’s been ongoing work to develop a safer technology for use in batteries that replaces the liquid electrolyte with a stable, solid alternative. Such alternative electrolytes could improve other technological aspects of batteries as well, including better energy storage.
However efforts have been thwarted by technological limitations so far. Scientists have tried using ceramic-based materials, but found its inherent brittleness makes it less-than-ideal. A team of scientists from Brown University combined graphene oxide platelets with powdered ceramic, then heated the mixture to form a composite, according to New Atlas.
The scientists not only found that the graphene-infused ceramic was twice as tough as before the graphene was added, but that the addition didn’t interfere with electrical performance. The research team says that their findings represent “the toughest solid electrolyte anyone has made to date” and plans to continue their research in the hopes of improving performance even more.