Faculty Fellows: Developing a Sustainable Battery

A big concern with electric cars is the battery. You’re driving around with about a gallon of flammable liquid in there. If we can replace that with a nonflammable solid and we replace lithium with calcium, then we’re going to have a safer, better battery overall.Professor Ian Hosein

Ian Hosein

Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science, Syracuse University

Project
Developing a solid-state calcium-ion battery that is a cheaper, more powerful, and environmentally safer alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

SyracuseCoE Impact
A Faculty Fellows award from SyracuseCoE funded supplies and equipment to produce and test a prototype electrolyte and demonstrate that it is extremely conductive. “We have integrated the solid electrolyte into a prototype calcium-ion battery, demonstrated that it works, and are currently focusing on improving it,” Hosein says. “We never could have done this without the financial support from SyracuseCoE.”

Backstory
Lithium-ion batteries are a popular energy technology due to lithium’s ability to store energy. Unfortunately, since lithium is mined in far-off places, it’s also expensive. And most lithium-ion batteries contain a liquid electrolyte that is flammable. “There’s a drive to find another ion that has the same energy density but is cheaper and more earth-abundant,” says Hosein.

Nuts and Bolts
Hosein has developed a battery using calcium—one of the most abundant elements in the world, which has double the charge of lithium—and replaced liquid electrolyte with a flame-resistant solid. “It’s essentially a plastic that contains the calcium ions and facilitates transport from one electrode to the other,” he explains. However, because every ion is unique, so is the solid electrolyte required to conduct energy. “It takes a lot of development to get the right combination of calcium source and the right plastic composition to actually get something that’s conductive,” says Hosein.

Practical Application
Having a safer and more powerful battery is important for industries ranging from personal devices to transportation. “Everyone’s heard about cell phone batteries that explode,” says Hosein. “A big concern with electric cars is the battery. You’re driving around with about a gallon of flammable liquid in there. If we can replace that with a nonflammable solid and we replace lithium with calcium, then we’re going to have a safer, better battery overall.”