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What's Happening With New Battery Materials?

Battery materials

The standard battery sizes we all know and love have very limited options for battery chemistries, with only a few being very popular for rechargeable electronics. This is understandable when you look at regulatory restrictions surrounding batteries and the industry’s overall risk aversion. Still, companies maintain interest in new battery materials and systems, both for upgrading batteries with currently commercialized chemistries and for totally new chemistries that are not on the market.

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Battery Materials in Use Today

The battery industry has developed and commercialized multiple battery materials for use in a variety of devices. Today’s focus on electrification has driven greater interest into rechargeable materials, as well as improving the supporting materials in rechargeable batteries. Lithium is probably the most well-known of all rechargeable battery materials, but there is also nickel-based and lead-based materials commonly used in batteries.

The table below summarizes some of the characteristics of common electrolyte materials used in commercially available batteries.


Cell type




  • Most common non-rechargeable materials
  • 1.5 V output
  • Characteristics vary with specific alkalines
  • Some electrolytes are based on zinc and lithium compounds



  • Currently banned in the EU
  • 1.2 V output
  • Up to 90% charge/discharge efficiency

Ni-metal hydride (NiMH)


  • Suitable replacement for NiCd
  • 1.2 V output
  • Greater than 90% discharge efficiency

Lithium ion (Li-ion)


  • Most common rechargeable battery
  • 3.7 V output
  • Up to 90% discharge efficiency

Lithium polymer (LiPo)


  • Currently banned in the EU
  • 3.6-3.85 V output
  • Much higher discharge capability than Li-ion

These battery materials and associated chemistries have continued to persist as they have proven to be scalable and relatively safe. As can be seen from the above table, some of these batteries are directly interchangeable in rechargeable electronics.

Alternative Battery Chemistries

Many alternative battery chemistries are still heavily in the research stage and may never see commercialization. Some of the chemistries being examined academically and in industry include:

  • Sodium-potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Seawater
  • Polymers
  • Glass-ceramic
  • Lithium-sulfur
  • Graphene
  • Aluminum-graphite

These materials involve new chemistries that are variations on existing methodologies (such as lithium-sulfur), or they are totally new in the industrial battery world. A recent academic review of alternative battery materials being researched can be found below:

Murali, A., et al. "Insights into the emerging alternative polymer-based electrolytes for all solid-state lithium-ion batteries: a review." Materials Letters (2022): 131764.

New Materials Without Changing Chemistry

The regulatory hurdles and production challenges associated with manufacturing batteries with a totally new chemistry has motivated battery manufacturers to focus on other aspects of battery designs. The electrolyte is not the only material to be improved in a battery; there are three other areas of battery design where efficiency improvements can be found.

  • Separator membranes
  • Electrode materials
  • Housing materials

Two classes of materials being investigated are carbon allotropes (nanotubes) for electrodes and polymers for separator materials (for example, Poly(methyl methacrylate), or PMMA).

Improvements in these materials can impact the charge/discharge rate, capacity, and maximum allowed charge/discharge currents. They address issues of safety and power delivery simultaneously by helping to reduce power loss during operation. Housing materials are another area of importance as the housing can help dissipate heat from the lossy areas of the battery assembly.

What Else is Needed For Battery Powered Devices?

In battery-operated electronics, the battery is not the whole story, there are other important sub-systems in an electronic product that are needed for successful operation with batteries. Rechargeable battery systems require an important set of sub-systems to operate successfully, including:

For some systems where safety is a concern, particularly electric vehicles, other safety monitoring systems are needed to determine whether the battery is overheating and at risk of combustion. Readers in the United States will likely remember the fiasco with Li-ion batteries in some hybrid vehicles, where the battery packs were overheating and some vehicles caught fire. Temperature monitoring systems are one simple safety measure that can detect when a problem like this will occur, and deterrence measures can be taken to ensure safety of the end user.

battery materials

Battery safety is a major engineering challenge that must be overcome to commercialize alternative battery materials.

When designing battery-based systems, the most important system characteristic from the user’s perspective is the lifetime of the device. Designers can work to evaluate and optimize power consumption with simulation tools that can accurately predict power usage in a variety of situations. In addition, it’s possible to predict changes in critical component operating parameters due to temperature fluctuations, which are inevitable in battery-based systems operating at high power output.

Electronics designers that want to use battery power can comprehensively evaluate their system functionality with the complete set of system analysis tools from Cadence. Only Cadence offers a comprehensive set of circuit, IC, and PCB design tools for any application and any level of complexity.

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