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This Battery has Twice the Power and Won’t Catch Fire? Believe It

Boston Globe, May 10, 2017

The world is desperate for safer rechargeable batteries. Just ask executives at South Korea’s Samsung Corp., which lost billions last year after the batteries in its phones began bursting into flames. Half a world away, in Woburn, Mike Zimmerman says he’s found the solution. His company, Ionic Materials, has developed a new lithium-ion battery that won’t burn or explode.

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Technology Guru Bill Joy Is Betting on a Bulletproof Battery

Bloomberg, May 2, 2017

Bill Joy, the Silicon Valley guru and Sun Microsystems Inc. co-founder, sees the future of energy in a battery that can take a bullet.

The venture capitalist formerly with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers LLC is now dedicating most of his time to Ionic Materials Inc., a Woburn, Massachusetts-based startup developing lithium batteries that won’t burst into flames. They’re strong enough to withstand being pierced by nails and even getting shot, as the company demonstrates in a promotional video.

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Batteries Have Gotten Better, But There’s Still Room for Improvement

Scientific American, April 18, 2017

“Every technology has improved over the years except batteries! Why can’t someone invent a better battery?” Man, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say that—well, I’d have about $17.50.

In fact, though, the average gadget fan is missing three huge points about batteries. (In February, PBS aired a NOVA special called “Search for the Super Battery,” of which I was the host. After a year of visiting laboratories and interviewing scientists, I can admit that batteries are on my mind these days.)

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New Battery Technology for Renewable Energy and Electric Vehicles

Engineering.com, April 9, 2017

Solid State Li-ion Batteries
On the subject of non-flammable batteries, Dr. Michael Zimmerman, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University, examined the benefits and drawbacks of lithium-ion batteries and decided that a solid polymer electrolyte would be safer than the liquid electrolyte currently used. He developed a solid-state Li-ion battery that can be cut, punctured, and otherwise abused without causing an explosion or even a malfunction. Its plastic electrolyte is flame-resistant. In addition, the material doesn’t allow dendrites to form on the electrodes, which increases the battery’s lifespan and the number of charge cycles.

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Startup Develops Polymer Electrolyte for Safer, Longer-Lasting Batteries

Design News, March 22, 2017

You’ve probably seen videos or heard or read about lithium-ion batteries that have exploded or caught fire when overheated. Now a researcher from Tufts University has devised what could be a permanent solution to solve this problem with the invention of a new polymer electrolyte that is neither flammable nor explosive, and paves the way for improvements in next-generation battery design.

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A Battery that Doesn’t Catch Fire

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

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The Plastic Battery that Doesn’t Explode

Science Friday,  February 22, 2017

Lithium-ion batteries have been the culprits behind a string of combusting devices. They’ve caused hoverboard fires, Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone explosions, and, most recently, a major recall of HP laptops. What makes these batteries so volatile is a highly flammable liquid called a liquid electrolyte.

“You can think of it as kerosene—like you’re walking around with kerosene in your smartphone, in your purse, and in your pocket,” says Mike Zimmerman, a materials science professor at Tufts University, and founder and CEO of the battery company, Ionic Materials.

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