Self-healing batteries are under development at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, supported by the U.S. Department of Energyís (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.
(Autonomic Materials for Smarter, Safer, Longer-Lasting Batteries)
The researchers embedded tiny liquid-metal filled microspheres within the battery. The microspheres remain dormant until the battery is damaged, at which point they burst and release the liquid metal contained within to fill the gaps in the electrical circuit. The capsules could be engineered to release their payload as a response to damage or overheating.
The researchers tested the simple version of the technology by connecting an electrode with a wire to determine whether the capsules could repair the circuit after cutting it. It worked in less than a millisecond.
Researchers hope that using autonomic, self-healing materials in batteries will lead to batteries that heal themselves from breakage (from being dropped) as well as the shocks of day-to-day use.
SF writer J.G. Ballard described a bendable, self-healing material in his 1962 short story The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista. Ballard wrote about psychotropic houses with bendable walls that responded to the emotions of visitors. The walls were made of plastex.
It was a beautiful room all right, with opaque plastex walls and white fluo-glass ceiling, but something terrible had happened there. As it responded to me, the ceiling lifting slightly and the walls growing less opaque, reflecting my perspective-seeking eye, I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily.
(Read more about plastex)