A professor at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (UQTR), Dan Belosinschi, has developed a very promising innovation that could revolutionize lithium batteries. He developed a component based on wood fibers that would make batteries safer and less polluting. A patent application will be prepared during the year for this new technology.
What Mr. Belosinschi has developed a fireproof membrane based on wood fibers to replace the plastic currently used in batteries. This membrane acts as a separator between the electrodes (positive pole and negative pole) to prevent them from touching and causing a short circuit. It is the short circuit that creates a chain reaction responsible for the ignition and explosion in the battery.
“The problem with the membrane currently used is that it is made of plastic. Plastic is always flammable. If the two electrodes touch, the battery will catch fire and explode. It can put lives in danger”, explains the researcher.
He therefore came up with the idea of making a product that was safer and less polluting than the plastic separator. He envisioned a fireproof membrane made from wood fibers, a natural resource in Quebec.
“It is a type of paper made of wood fibers to which chemical components are added to make it fireproof”, he explains. We all know that paper burns, so we worked out an easy-to-do chemical reaction that allows us to graft small molecules onto the surface of these wood fibers. These molecules have a flame retardant effect. »
For the product to work, it was also necessary to repeat the properties found in the plastic separator, that is, a very thin, light, porous (for the passage of ions) and flexible membrane.
“We also discovered along the way that the membrane is able to capture the acids released in the battery and release lithium,” adds Belosinschi. The battery life can therefore be extended. And when the battery is no longer good, the membrane that is thrown away serves as soil fertilizer. This membrane is not recovered because it has no economic value, but at least, thrown into the environment, it is not harmful. »
So far, the product has ticked all the boxes. “We can say mission accomplished in terms of equipment development. Now the next step will be to really test it for the long term in different situations and environments. We are ready to embark on the second phase of the project”, says Mr. Belosinschi.
For this, it developed a partnership with the University of Sherbrooke and Professor Gessie Brisard. This is where the test series will take place. These will consist of measuring the electrical conductivity, measuring the energy storage capacity during several charge and discharge cycles of the battery, as well as evaluating its stability over time.
“The beauty of this material is that we’re not limited to one type of drums,” says Belosinschi. It can be integrated into any type of battery, for cars or an industrial machine, for example. We are also not limited to a certain chemistry. It can also be used in potassium batteries. The material is multifunctional. »
a fast forward
Not only the technology developed by Mr. Belosinschi is unique and promising, but it only took him a few months to get there. He started working on this project in the spring.
Alone at first, he obtained a scholarship that allowed him to hire an intern for the summer. They are now two to work full time on this project. Added to this are Professor Gessie Brisard, from the Chemistry Department at the University of Sherbrooke, and Professor François Brouillette, from UQTR.
To carry out his research work, Mr. Belosinschi benefited from a research grant awarded jointly by the Syndicat des cartoons de cours de l’UQTR and the Fondation de l’UQTR.