Never Run Out Of Power (Part 1) - Charging Batteries in Seconds

5/9/2012 5:17:21 PM

Today's batteries are weak, expensive and explosive. Researchers are working on new power packs that will change our mobile world. The future will bring us batteries that charge in seconds and offer 20 times more performance than anything available today

Description: batteries

A few years ago the battery world was doing well. Mobile phones had to be charged only once a week, and simple AAA batteries from the supermarket were enough for MP3 players. Electric cars had awful performance, but they weren't supposed to be taken seriously anyway. Today, however, a smartphone battery lasting through just one day is a rare joy. The distance an electric car can run is theoretically the same as a petrol-driven car with a full tank, but in the real world it doesn't achieve this.

Manufacturers and researchers seem to have reached a dead end when it comes to batteries. Mobile devices are developing rapidly, whereas the battery technology can no longer keep in pace with it. While CPUs and GPUs can be made more power efficient by miniaturising their components, battery developers have a very basic problem: the material today has reached its technological limits. Lithium ion batteries last slightly longer than previous generations used to, but they require more space and are also expensive.

Researchers worldwide are asking the same questions: is optimising the available technology enough? Do we need new architectures, or do we have to develop a special type of battery for every different device? Different people have adopted different approaches to this problem. Some of them are experimenting with cheap materials; others with new configurations, higher capacities and shorter charging times. We present a roundup of the latest and most promising technologies from laboratories around the world.

Charging Batteries in Seconds


Description: 3D battery nanotechnology could charge your phone in seconds

Batteries require much more space in comparison to the other components of a device, be it heavy-duty unit in an E-car or a tiny sliver designed especially for smartphones. Unfortunately, a lot of space is left unused inside the batteries. That's why many universities and manufacturers are carrying out research for optimising regular lithium ion batteries to increase their performance density, which could happen quite quickly.

The basic principle of the battery is quite easy: Lithium ions move to and fro through an electrolyte between two electrodes, for instance while discharging, from the anode to the cathode. While doing so, the lithium atoms emit electrons. Voltage is finally generated through this electron flow. One of the problems in this process is that only one electron at most is transferred per lithium atom. The idea here is to exploit more electrons per metal atom. The researchers are following two approaches here: they want to increase the capacity and accelerate the charging current. Many projects are being directed towards this research.

Researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois, USA have developed a silicon anode that performs better than a conventional battery by a factor of 10. In another project, researchers of the university presented a battery that does not offer more performance but gets charged in 10 seconds—without the capacity being affected. A mobile phone would thus need to be plugged in for just a short while and its battery would last the whole day. The combination of both technologies would mean a charging time of less than 2 minutes and talktime of up to 100 hours—mobile phone owners would be saved the hassle of always carrying along a charger.

A very porous material is required to transfer the higher bit density into the battery in such a short time. The researchers are now working on a cathode with a three-dimensional and nanostructure. For that, polystyrene spheres are together with nickel. The polystyrene evaporates and leaves behind a type of porous nickel sponge whose holes are enlarged by "electro polishing" and then coated with electrolytic material.

Almost as Powerful as Petroluem

The researchers under Dr. Maximilian Fichtner at the Institute for Nanotechnology of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) are working on optimising lithium ion batteries. Dr. Fichtner explains the principle: "Our system is based on iron that is encapsulated as iron nanoparticles fixed in a carbon shell, and which has a reaction with lithium fluoride. This generates iron fluoride and lithium which can be saved in the anode". At the moment, batteries can be improved upon by a factor of two —but the goal is to have a battery that exceeds conventional ones by at least five times.

For electric cars, this would still be insufficient. A clear leap in performance would require much more than developing current technologies further. New architectures must be created for such heavy use. Another concept from the Karlsruhe researchers is a type of battery in which fluoride ions are used instead of lithium. For that, they are using metal on the anode and metal fluoride on the cathode. The big advantage of these materials, according to researchers, is that an energy density of up to 5,000 Wh/I (Watt hours per liter) can definitely be reached. In comparison, petrol has an energy density of about 9,000 Wh/I whereas lithium ion batteries only offer a mere 25 Wh/I. It will take several more years before we see fluoride ion batteries in the market. "The design has not been finalised yet. We are still researching it," says Dr. Fichtner.

Cheap and Safe Batteries Becoming the Norm

Description: Description: Description: Safe Batteries

Researchers at British Leeds University are dealing with another problem: current-day batteries are expensive to manufacture, and thus are expensive in market. Besides that, they are also sometimes dangerous, in that they short circuit, catch fire, or even explode due to heat or shock.

The researchers could overcome both weaknesses with their new gel battery: up to 70 percent of the structure of these batteries is made up of flowing electrolytes that are formed with polymer into a jelly-like mass. These batteries are not combustible and are also cheaper due to a relatively simple and fully automatic production process: the gel is simply pressed between the anode and the cathode and shaped into a foil.

Another advantage of the gel battery is its flexibility: it can be cut and folded into any size. In contrast to conventional batteries, the gel battery can also adapt quickly to a specific device like a thin layer behind an LCD screen or a sheet under a notebook keyboard. Unfortunately, the gel battery concept does not have much more power than existing lithium ion batteries. Apart from that, there is nothing stopping these batteries from entering the market in smartphones and other gadgets in the near future.

  •  The Android Phone computer (Part 2) - The world of OTG & Big screen entertainment
  •  The Android Phone computer (Part 1) - Can I use a USB Keyboard or Mouse?
  •  The Android Army invades! (Part 3) : Disaster recovery
  •  The Android Army invades! (Part 2) : Wipe out WebOS
  •  The Android Army invades! (Part 1) : Robot spares
  •  Manage iOS with iCloud (Part 2)
  •  Manage iOS with iCloud (Part 1)
  •  Touchy Curve : BlackBerry Curve 9380
  •  TomTom’s Via 260 - Getting Lost No More
  •  Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus - Tablet reloaded
  •  Run Android Apps on Windows
  •  Two different phones, one similar beat : HTC Sensation XE vs HTC Sensation XL
  •  The Second BlackBerry Developers Conference Asia (Part 3)
  •  The Second BlackBerry Developers Conference Asia (Part 2)
  •  The Second BlackBerry Developers Conference Asia (Part 1)
  •  The other side of A Galaxy
  •  The 10 most interesting facts about the telephone
  •  Sony Ericsson Xperia Active - Your android-powered training buddy
  •  Kid developers (Part 2)
  •  Kid developers (Part 1)
    Top 10
    Nikon 1 J2 With Stylish Design And Dependable Image And Video Quality
    Canon Powershot D20 - Super-Durable Waterproof Camera
    Fujifilm Finepix F800EXR – Another Excellent EXR
    Sony NEX-6 – The Best Compact Camera
    Teufel Cubycon 2 – An Excellent All-In-One For Films
    Dell S2740L - A Beautifully Crafted 27-inch IPS Monitor
    Philips 55PFL6007T With Fantastic Picture Quality
    Philips Gioco 278G4 – An Excellent 27-inch Screen
    Sony VPL-HW50ES – Sony’s Best Home Cinema Projector
    Windows Vista : Installing and Running Applications - Launching Applications
    Most View
    Windows Server 2003 : Terminal Services Administration (part 1) - Terminal Services Manager
    Is It Time To Quarantine Infected Pcs?
    MEElectronics Air-Fi AF32
    Getting the Most Out of the Microsoft Outlook Client : Deploying Outlook 2007
    AMD Radeon HD 7870
    Programming .NET Security : Extending the .NET Framework (part 1) - Defining the Key Exchange Formatter
    Display Warriors (part 4) - AOC 2352Phz & Philips 226V3LSB28
    Windows Azure : Using the Blob Storage API
    Primer – Choosing And Using Peripheral Buses (Part 1)
    Programming COM+ Security (part 2) - Creating the Serviced Component, Specifying the COM+ Application Type
    iPhone Application Development : Exploring Interface Builder - Connecting to Code
    Intel : We For One Welcome Our Apple Overlords
    Visual Studio Team System 2008 : Creating new report (part 1) - Report server project
    Brother MFC-J4510DW - An Innovative All-In-One A3 Printer
    The State Of Mobile... Creative Media In 2012 (Part 2)
    Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 : Building Lookups - Picking a color
    Servlet Development and Deployment : Writing our first servlet & Compiling the servlet
    Working with the Windows Phone 7 Application Life Cycle (part 1) - Observing Application Life Cycle Events
    MiniStack MAX - Adds Versatility To External Drive Options
    ASP.NET 4 in VB 2010 : Reading and Writing with Streams (part 2) - Shortcuts for Reading and Writing Files, A Simple Guest Book