Toyota recently unveiled a prototype of its all-solid-state battery, the latest entrant in a technology niche that could become the next big thing.

In solid state batteries, a liquid electrode is replaced with a crystalline membrane or other solid. Orlando, Florida-based Planar Energy claims that it has come up with a formula for a crystalline battery that can boost performance, cut costs, make it easier to erect factories and ultimately pave the way for things like inexpensive, mass-manufactured electric cars that can run on the same battery pack for years.

Prieto Battery, a startup out of Colorado State that is named after Professor Amy Prieto, is working on lithium-ion batteries made with silicon nanowires. (The picture shows Prieto's battery architecture.) Meanwhile, the Khosla Ventures-backed Sakti3 is developing a safe, dense solid-state lithium-ion battery

In Toyota's battery, the positive electrode, negative electrode and solid electrolyte of the prototyped cell are made by using lithium cobalt dioxide (LiCoO2), graphite and sulfide, respectively.

Toyota is actively engaged in the development of all-solid-state batteries and lithium-air batteries as next-generation batteries. When an all-solid-state battery is in an ideal state, its lithium spreads faster than electrolyte, making it theoretically possible to realize a high output power. (IBM hopes to demonstrate a lithium air prototype within two years.)

A few years ago, Toyota wasn't so fond of lithium-ion batteries, claiming that they would eventually be superceded by fuel cells. While fuel cell work continues, battery activity has ramped up.

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