The flammable electrolyte currently used in lithium-ion batteries - which power everything from your mobile phones to jumbo airliners - has been a cause of concern, especially after recent lithium battery fires in Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
The battery electrolyte would soon be replaced with a material called perfluoropolyether, or PFPE.
Scientists led by chemist Joseph DeSimone at the University of North Carolina (UNC) stumbled upon PFPE while studying a material that prevents marine life from sticking to the bottom of ships.
It paves the way for developing a new generation lithium-ion battery that doesn't spontaneously combust at high temperatures.
"There is a big demand for these batteries and a huge demand to make them safer," said DeSimone, Chancellor's Eminent Professor of Chemistry in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences.
"Researchers have been looking to replace this electrolyte for years, but nobody had ever thought to use this material, PFPE, as the main electrolyte material in lithium-ion batteries before."
In the past, researchers have identified alternative non-flammable electrolytes for use in lithium-ion batteries but these alternatives compromised the properties of the lithium ions.
In addition to being non-flammable, PFPE exhibits very interesting properties such as its ion transport, said researchers.
"That makes this electrolyte stand apart from previous discoveries," said the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.