Igniting Change, Not Batteries: Oceanit’s MANA Solution to Li-ion Hazards

Defense, Technology

In 2016, Samsung Note 7 phones made headlines worldwide as hundreds spontaneously burst into flames. These combustions led to house and car fires, individual injuries, and even emergency aircraft landings when Note 7 phones began smoking on commercial flights. At the heart of these incidents were lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, the batteries that power many of our devices today.

On October 13, 2016, Samsung officially recalled every single Note 7 phone worldwide. According to a report by Samsung to Korea’s Agency for Technology and Standards (obtained by Bloomberg), the Li-ion batteries contained a defect that “placed pressure on plates contained within battery cells,” leading to overheating and combustion.

As manufacturers like Samsung drive for smaller, lighter, longer-lasting batteries, overheating and fires have become worryingly common for consumers. Recognizing the significant hazards posed in the private and public sectors, Oceanit innovated the MANA battery separator to prevent future fires and explosions.

Although Li-ion batteries can be a liability, there is a good reason why they are so commonly used in many products, such as Samsung phones. The favor Li-ion batteries have are due to their high energy density in compact, lightweight packages. They outperform lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries in energy capacity and charge/discharge cycles. However, ever-increasing energy levels in ever-smaller packages present a significant challenge, as evidenced by the Samsung Note 7 incidents.

A Li-ion battery contains an anode (negative), a cathode (positive), a separator membrane, and an electrolyte. During charging or discharging, Li-ions move between the anode and cathode with the help of electrolytes. The critical safety component is the separator, which maintains the separation of anode and cathode electrolytes, only allowing Li-ions to pass through. If the separator is compromised by damage, wear, or overheating, it can lead to dangerous short circuits, melting, and even fires or explosions.

Currently, Li-ion batteries utilize polyolefin-based separators, which can shrink, melt, and burn under specific conditions like rapid charging. Consequently, many industries that rely on batteries constantly grapple with the dual challenge of increasing charging speed and capacity while not compromising the integrity of these separators.

However, separators made of advanced, thermally stable materials can prevent these effects.

Oceanit’s MANA nanofiber membrane enables a 50% increase in separator porosity and ionic conductivity. This endows MANA with superior thermal stability, durability, wettability, and ionic conductivity over standard tri-layer polyolefin separators. Unlike commercial separators that fail at <160°C, MANA separators maintain integrity beyond 200°C, resisting melting, degradation, and combustion up to 250°C.

The safety concerns around current Li-ion batteries have led to use restrictions in defense, aviation, and space industries. In certain applications, only lead acid batteries are allowed to be used due to Li-ion’s combustion risks. However, MANA could facilitate the replacement of heavier batteries with lighter Li-ions by addressing these safety regulations currently limiting their use.

For individual consumers, MANA batteries will better respond to strict regulations like those of the U.S. Transport Security Administration, which has strict guidelines for Li-ion batteries on commercial flights. MANA’s superior separator technology benefits private consumers by making devices safer, but it also benefits those seeking faster battery charging and longer lifespans without safety compromises.

Creating safer Li-ion technologies, like MANA, could also propel global decarbonization efforts. As the world seeks to move away from one-time-burn fossil fuels, industries are electrifying traditional combustion systems and employing renewable energy storage. For example, the U.S. transportation sector, traditionally dependent on fossil fuels, is gradually shifting towards electric vehicles (EVs). While we still have ways to develop sustainable and renewable electricity generation methods, introducing MANA to EVs could enhance their appeal, assuaging safety concerns related to battery fires and offering the benefit of faster charging times.

Looking ahead, Oceanit is exploring collaborations involving lithium-metal (Li-metal) and MANA batteries. Li-metal, with its superior energy density, lighter weight, and faster charging capabilities, is a promising successor to Li-ion. However, its instability under rapid charging is much higher than Li-ion due to the energy density. MANA separators could stabilize Li-metal batteries, allowing higher charging speeds without sacrificing safety.

Oceanit’s pioneering MANA battery separator not only promises to revolutionize the safety of Li-ion and Li-metal batteries but also aligns with global electrification and sustainability goals. By enabling lighter, faster-charging batteries without the risk of combustion, MANA technology makes devices safer and accelerates the adoption of electric vehicles and other battery-dependent innovations.

Lithium-ion Battery
Example of a Lithium-Ion Battery
Example of a Traditional Lead-Acid Battery
During battery charging and discharging, ions flow from the anode to the cathode through a separator.