Most conventional electric vehicles and mobile phones use lithium-ion batteries, which have an electrolyte gel inside them to separate the positively charged graphite anode from the negatively charged lithium cathode.

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These are relatively cheap to make but suffer from thermal runaway – heat them beyond a specific temperature and an unstoppable chain reaction causes them to disintegrate in fiery explosions.

How do solid-state batteries work? © Alamy

Solid-state batteries replace the electrolyte gel with a solid material such as ceramic or glass, which makes them less flammable, faster charging, lighter, and higher power.

At present, they’re still under development and remain costly to manufacture. This may soon change, as companies are spending billions on the development of this new technology.

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Asked by: John Awbery, via email

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Authors

Dr Peter Bentley is a computer scientist and author who is based at University College London. He is the author of books including 10 Short Lessons in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Digital Biology: How nature is transforming our technology and our lives.

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