SAFIRE - Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte

Organization: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Co-Developer(s): University of Rochester
Year: 2017

The SAFIRE-Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte was designed to improve battery safety by becoming solid upon impact, preventing battery fire. In lithium ion batteries, the electrolyte is built from highly flammable organic solvent molecules that present the risk of fire in the event of internal short circuit. The SAFIRE electrolyte eliminates that risk using an inert additive. The SAFIRE electrolyte is a liquid under normal operating conditions, allowing solvents to wet all the electrode surfaces just like a traditional battery electrolyte. However, upon impact—caused by a car crash or some other mechanical impact event—the additive causes the electrolyte to undergo an immediate and massive rheological shift to become a solid. The solid barrier prevents the positive and negative electrodes from coming into contact and short-circuiting. By preventing the electrodes from touching, none of the energy stored in the battery components is released. It is this release of energy that causes a massive increase in heating of the batteries and subsequent thermal runaway, which can result in fire. The SAFIRE electrolyte additive can be dropped into existing manufacturing processes without requiring a complete retooling of battery design and fabrication.