Researchers claim to have made a breakthrough in battery design which could spell the end for lithium-ion batteries. 

According to Signal technology magazine researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s chemical division have developed a 3-D zinc “sponge” that will extend the life of the cells in today's single-use batteries and provide a safer alternative to lithium-ion batteries. 

When lithium-ion batteries catch fire (as in the mobile phone pictured) it is a process called thermal runaway, a rapid, uncontrolled chemical reaction within the battery that causes the internal temperature to rise.

When one cell in a battery overheats it can produce enough heat - up to 900°C (1652°F) - to cause adjacent cells to overheat. This can cause a lithium battery fire to flare repeatedly.

Signal states: “Researchers swapped in this new 3-D sponge to produce fully rechargeable nickel–zinc prototype cells, a breakthrough that challenges lithium-ion performance in terms of power, and certainly, safety.  

“The patent-pending electrode allows for rechargeability and performance that researchers said is on par with lithium, improving not only safety but also size, weight and availability.”

Lithium-ion batteries have been implicated in two fatal plane crashes since 2010 and the Federal Aviation Authority in the USA 52 aviation incidents since 1991 have involved lithium batteries carried as cargo or baggage that involved smoke or fires. 

Also, the Navy has banned some products that use the batteries, including electronic cigarettes, on ships, submarines, aircraft and other platforms because of fire worries.

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A new invention called an AvSax has been deployed to deal with the danger of fire on board aircraft quickly and effectively. They are now on board several major US carriers.

Simply pour at least two litres of water into an AvSax and then drop the burning device into the bag. The water activates a polymer gel inside the bag’s lining causing it to expand around the device. Should the device keep on burning then the AvSax is tough enough to absorb the force.

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