Tech Insights

Pioneering Advances in Solid-State Electrolytes

November 22, 2023 by Jake Hertz

Two separate studies of electrolyte materials have resulted in breakthroughs in the development of solid-state batteries.

As we pivot towards a more sustainable future, the demand for safer and higher-performance energy storage solutions is at an all-time high. Solid-state electrolytes, offering significant advantages over traditional liquid electrolytes, have emerged as a promising future for achieving these goals.


Solid-state battery research.

Solid-state battery research. Image used courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory


However, the technology is still riddled with technological challenges, especially about the electrolyte, hindering its mainstream adoption. Two academic studies have recently unveiled breakthroughs toward safer and higher-performance solid-state batteries. 


Chloride-Based Solid Electrolytes

In a significant advancement, researchers at the Institute for Basic Science have recently developed a novel chloride-based solid electrolyte that addresses the major safety concerns inherent in commercial batteries that use flammable liquid electrolytes. 

A key to this breakthrough lies in the precise arrangement of metal ions within the electrolyte structure, specifically targeting lithium yttrium chloride. For optimal ionic conductivity, it's critical to maintain the metal ion occupancy within a specific range: more than 0.167 to ensure a sufficiently wide pathway for lithium ions but less than 0.444 to avoid obstructing their movement. This strategy effectively balances the trade-off between enabling free lithium ion movement and providing a stable structural framework.


The arrangement of metal ions.

The arrangement of metal ions. Image used courtesy of the Institute for Basic Science


Building upon these insights, the research team successfully developed a solid electrolyte with high ionic conductivity using zirconium, a less expensive alternative to rare earth metals. This discovery is particularly significant as it demonstrates the impact of metal ions' arrangement on a material's ionic conductivity for the first time. 

The development of this chloride-based solid electrolyte marks a major step towards safer, more affordable, and more efficient energy storage solutions, crucial for the widespread adoption of solid-state batteries.

Composite Solid-State Electrolytes

In another study, researchers at the Shenzhen All-Solid-State Lithium Battery Electrolyte Engineering Research Center have made significant strides in developing composite solid-state electrolytes. 

This composite electrolyte ingeniously combines the advantages of ceramic and polymer solid-state materials, addressing the individual limitations of each. The innovation involves using lithium tantalate, a ceramic ion conductor with a unique crystalline structure, as a functional filler. This material mitigates the interface barriers (space-charge layer) between composite components while introducing an additional lithium-ion transport pathway.


The research team at Shenzhen introduced a ceramic polymer electrolyte

The research team at Shenzhen introduced a ceramic polymer electrolyte. Image used courtesy of Yuan et al.


The researchers claim that this approach has resulted in an electrolyte that significantly enhances the number and speed of lithium ions moving through it. The lithium tantalate filler effectively eases the bottleneck for lithium-ion transport across the polymer-ceramic interface, leading to an electrolyte with high conductivity and a long cycling life. This is particularly notable as it maintains performance even at low temperatures.

The combination of lithium tantalate's ferroelectric and ion-conductive properties provides a novel strategy for designing integrated ceramic fillers, significantly enhancing ion conductivity and, consequently, the overall performance of solid-state lithium metal batteries.​


Major Steps for Solid-State Electrolyte Technology

The advancements in solid-state electrolyte technology signify a paradigm shift in the battery industry. With the development of chloride-based and composite solid-state electrolytes, the industry is directly addressing critical challenges such as safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, leading the way toward the next generation of energy storage solutions.