Boston Globe, March 16, 2017
Michael Zimmerman is hoping to light a fire under the electronics industry by building rechargeable batteries that won’t burn.
Zimmerman, a professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University, is founder of Ionic Materials Inc., a Woburn company that’s developing a new kind of battery, suitable for powering laptops, smartphones, or electric cars. The powerful but relatively fragile lithium-ion batteries we presently use contain a flammable liquid that carries electrically-charged ions between the batteries’ electrodes. Zimmerman’s found a way to do the same thing with a solid polymer — a plastic material that can’t leak and won’t burn.
The Springfield native spent 14 years as a researcher at the now-defunct Bell Labs in North Andover, becoming an expert in making and molding polymers. In 2002, he launched Quantum Leap Packaging, which made polymer packages for silicon microchips. He has continued to develop polymer products at his current company, iQLP of Woburn.
Ionic Materials is a side gig, but one with immense potential. Zimmerman says they should deliver twice the capacity of today’s batteries, while being far more stable and rugged. He says that the batteries should be ready for the market in two or three years, and that the world’s leading battery makers are interested in licensing the technology. — HIAWATHA BRAY