Batteries of the future: A local company working to make electronics safer

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WOBURN, Mass. - Cell phones, headphones and hoverboards have all caught fire in recent months because of their lithium ion batteries.

But a Woburn company has secretly been developing a safer battery for months, and is now ready to share it with the world.

They claim the battery is cheaper, lasts longer, and just may be a game changer.

The problem with current lithium ion batteries

The liquid electrolyte in lithium ion batteries that power cell phones, tablets and laptops is extremely flammable.

"You're carrying around kerosene in your pocketbook, your pants, your car," said Ionic Materials C.E.O. Mike Zimmerman. 

A new, safer alternative

Zimmerman’s Woburn company believes they have the solution: a battery so safe, they can shoot bullets through it, and it still would not catch fire.  When they tested their theory, bullet after bullet pierced the prototype without even a spark.

“We're replacing the kerosene with a safe plastic that doesn’t burn,” said Zimmerman.

Ionic Materials is the only lab in the world to develop a polymer in the middle of the battery instead of a liquid.

“It's non-flammable and it won't explode, so it completely solves the flammability issue of liquid electrolytes,” Zimmerman said.

Then he took out a pair of scissors at their Woburn labs, and cut right through the battery.  The thing his team never counted on, was the battery would still work after all that abuse.  

Even a sliver of the battery can keep a smart phone going.  Even the battery that took three bullets can still charge up and power a tablet months later.

What this means for consumers

Another perk? The battery’s light weight and long charge could make electric cars more appealing by boosting the range between charges. Ionic Materials says their plastic is also more environmentally friendly than current lithium ion batteries and it's recyclable.

Ionic Materials is now in talks to take the prototype to the next level: getting the battery into mass production, and into the devices we carry every day.

But the payoff could be huge - smartphones that go days without a charge, without the risk of fire, and all for less money.

“It's a new generation. I believe in the future all batteries will be made this way,” said Zimmerman.

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