While smart phones and electronic devices seemingly have more advanced and helpful features everyday, one thing remains as inconvenient as ever: Batteries.
Sure, our phones have more power, slicker aesthetics, better graphics and newer capabilities; but all of those things also drain our battery life faster and have us in a constant search for an outlet to charge our phone. If there’s one big remaining inconvenience of smart phones, it has to be the battery.
However, researchers at the Nanyang Technology University, in Singapore, claim to have developed a way to build a much improved battery; one that would charge up to 70 percent in barely two minutes, yet somehow still have a lifespan of 20 years!
Most electronic devices use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that on average can have around 500 recharge cycles, which adds up to about two years of use, by which time the user will likely just get a new phone. The technology on these new batteries keeps them alive for up to 10 more times that, making it easier for people to not have to change their phones so often nor have to wait so long.
Associate Professor Chen Xiaodong, from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering, was the inventor of a new titanium dioxide gel that replaces the traditional graphite negative pole used in lithium-ion batteries. The gel is turned into tiny nanotubes that are a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. These nanotubes speed up the electrons and ions that flow in and out of the battery, allowing it to charge a lot faster than your traditional lithium-ion one. It can go from empty to 70 percent in barely two minutes. The cycle lifespan can also reach up to 10,000 recharges before its max charge starts going down.
While cell phone batteries are probably the biggest target (considering everyone uses one), the new battery also offers a whole new landscape for electric cars, whose costly battery replacements and long waiting times to recharge have made them very impractical so far.
Replacing a battery on an electric car currently costs over $5,000, but with a 10,000 cycle life, owning an electric car becomes significantly cheaper and more convenient.
“Electric cars will be able to increase their range dramatically, with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars,” Professor Chen said on NTU’s website.
“Equally important, we can now drastically cut down the toxic waste generated by disposed batteries, since our batteries last ten times longer than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries.”
Rachid Yazami, another NTU professor and co-inventor of the lithium-graphite anode that is still used today, was enthusiastic about Professor Chen’s invention.
“There is still room for improvement and one such key area is the power density – how much power can be stored in a certain amount of space – which directly relates to the fast charge ability,” Yazami said in their press release, “Ideally, the charge time for batteries in electric vehicles should be less than 15 minutes, which Prof. Chen’s nanostructured anode has proven to do so.”
A still unnamed company is currently licensing the technology, and Professor Chen expects the new battery to hit the market within two years.