New Rechargeable Lithium Metal Battery Promises Smaller Size Or Double The Power

Courtesy of SolidEnergy Systems
Courtesy of SolidEnergy Systems

Take your pick: do you want your camera battery to be half the size of your current lithium ion (Li-ion) battery while lasting the same amount of time (i.e., taking the same amount of pictures) — or, do you want it the same size but lasting twice as long (i.e., taking twice the amount of pictures)?

This is the interesting choice camera manufacturers (and manufacturers of other consumer electronic devices) will have to make if they adopt the novel lithium metal (Li-Metal) batteries proposed by MIT spinout, SolidEnergy Systems.

The Li-Metal battery essentially swaps out graphite for very thin, high-energy lithium-metal foil, which can hold more ions and thus provide more energy capacity. Chemical modifications to the electrolyte make the Li-Metal batteries rechargeable and keep it from heating up and catching fire.

In October 2015, SolidEnergy demonstrated the first-ever working prototype of a rechargeable Li-Metal smartphone battery with double energy density: at half the size of the Li-ion battery used in an iPhone 6, it offers 2.0 amp hours, compared with the Li-ion battery’s 1.8 amp hours.

SolidEnergy is preparing to commercialize the Li-Metal battery in November, with the first application targeting drones that are used “to provide free Internet to the developing world and to survey for disaster relief.” The next consumer electronics to benefit from the Li-Metal batteries are smartphones and wearables (early 2017), followed by electric vehicles (2018). SolidEnergy estimates it can make Li-Metal batteries that are either half the size and half the weight, and still allowing an electric vehicle to travel 200 miles on a single charge, or make them the same size and weight, but doubling the electric vehicle’s range to 400 miles on a single charge.

While cameras are not specifically mentioned, it does not take a genius to realize that mirrorless cameras will benefit tremendously with a Li-Metal battery that lasts twice as long and DSLRs with one that is half the size and weight.