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Coating Makes Batteries Safer

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 06:41AM

Every year about five billion button batteries, those that are found in hearing aids, toys, calculations, and more, are made and about 4000 children are taken to emergency rooms after swallowing one. While you may not expect such small batteries to be a serious danger, they can cause burns to the esophagus, tears in the digestive tract, and even death. Researchers at MIT, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital have come up with a novel way to preventing these injuries.

The threat the batteries pose is from water or saliva allowing a current to flow. That current can then produce hydroxide ions, which damages tissue, causing chemical burns. To defeat this, the researchers turned to quantum tunneling composite (QTC), which is an off-the-shelf material used in keyboards and touchscreens. What it does is block electrical currents, except when pressure is applied to it. This causes the conducting particles within it to be close enough together to allow a current to flow. The researchers tuned the QTC to need more force than a digestive tract will apply to conduct electricity. A battery coated in QTC will therefore not produce an electrical current, or hydroxide, if accidentally swallowed.

As QTC is already a fairly common material, and it just needs to coat the battery, it should not add much cost to battery production. The researchers are now working on scalable methods to create the coating and getting companies to use it.

Source: MIT

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