Even if you weren't the owner of an HP (or Acer, Dell or Samsung) laptop that went up in flames, you're likely aware that lithium-ion batteries can pose a (very small) risk of setting your gadgets on fire. And that's without mentioning larger-scale issues with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Tesla Model S. Rare though these incidents may be, no disasters are much better than some, which is why scientists at UNC Chapel Hill are developing a replacement solution.
The team recently discovered that a fluoride polymer known as PFPE shows very little risk of ignition, especially compared to your standard Li-ion battery. (Interestingly, the material also prevents marine life from sticking to the bottom of ships, but that's beside the point.) Using PFPE to dissolve lithium salt, researchers discovered that the polymer is a viable, non-flammable alternative to the electrolyte. According to UNC, the electrolyte is the "only inherently flammable component" of current lithium-ion power packs, so this discovery could very well pave the way to a safer product. The next step will improving battery cycle performance, with the goal of integrating the material into the standard battery design. Check out the source link for more info.