Solid state batteries are on the horizon. Sakuu, a startup specializing in 3D printing, announces that it has created a solid-state battery that "matches or improves" the performance of current lithium-ion batteries.
The limits of lithium
From cell phones and laptops to electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries are everywhere. We depend on those refillable power boxes. But they have a dark side: lithium extraction causes air and soil pollution. Not only that: lithium batteries can be large and bulky in some devices, sometimes catch fire and cannot be easily recycled.
So the race to find cheaper, lighter, safer and more powerful batteries has begun.
The promise of solid state batteries
Thanks to its ability to deliver higher energy density in smaller places with unique shapes, 3D printed solid-state batteries might be a pretty good solution. And it looks like Sakuu has finally built one.
The potential benefits of solid state batteries abound. They would have the same capacity as current lithium-ion batteries, but would be tiny by comparison. They would be half the size and a third of the weight. And, with the promise of Sakuu's new 3D printing technology, they would be produced faster, cost less and most importantly, allowing for recycling. Sound too good to be true.
Sakuu used 3D printing to create a tiny three-amp (Ah) solid-state battery, which has the capacity of three AAA alkaline batteries. The startup used "additive manufacturing" technology, layering materials to create the shape of the battery. This method allows the company to deposit different materials on a single thin layer.
To get batteries with maximum energy density, we want to minimize the volume of all elements that add nothing to battery performance. This is the kind of thing 3D printing really allows you to do.Karl Littau, Sakku's chief technology officer in a statement.
A revolutionary battery
Many solid-state batteries incorporate a lithium-metal anode and a ceramic electrolyte that separates the anode and cathode. Saakuu's technology allows them to combine it into a single layer to create a proprietary molded ceramic electrolyte. Without giving details, Littau said that electrolyte technology and manufacturing "is something of the crown jewels of anyone working in the solid-state battery field."
The company built a 3Ah lithium-metal solid-state battery, a battery size typically found in rechargeable cordless power tools. They claim their version of the 3 Ah battery is "equal to or better" than current lithium-ion batteries.
Possible applications and future developments of the solid state battery
Although Saakuu created the battery with industry standard cathode materials in mind, it can also handle higher voltage cathodes. So, in the future, battery versions may provide up to 25% more energy. Given these benefits in density, safety and energy, the new battery is ideal for consumer products but also for aerospace, transportation, and various other applications.