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This battery has twice the power and won’t catch fire? Believe it.

A Woburn startup develops lithium-ion batteries that can't explode, and last longer.

joanne gebal for the boston globe

The world is desperate for safer rechargeable batteries. Just ask executives at South Korea’s Samsung Corp., which lost billions last year after the batteries in its phones began bursting into flames. Half a world away, in Woburn, Mike Zimmerman says he’s found the solution. His company, Ionic Materials, has developed a new lithium-ion battery that won’t burn or explode.

In standard rechargeables, a flammable liquid carries ions between the battery’s electrodes. If there’s a short circuit, the battery can overheat and ignite the liquid. Zimmerman’s new battery uses a solid plastic material instead. He claims that it allows the battery to store twice as much energy as standard lithium-ion rechargeables. And the plastic compound won’t burn.


Ionic Materials hopes to bring the batteries to market in a couple of years. Zimmerman doesn’t plan on building his own battery factory. But he would like to make the vital plastic component in Massachusetts and ship it to battery makers all over the world. “I live here,” Zimmerman says, “and I want to create jobs here.”

Hiawatha Bray is a Globe staff writer. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.