Trend: A new technology from MIT promises to decrease battery recharge time significantly while increasing the power available from batteries.
Andy Greenberg at Forbes.com describes a new battery material from MIT that could charge a cellphone in seconds. Excerpts below.
This is the kind of advance that we need to start breaking our fossil-fuel addiction.
As rechargeable electronics grow and even replace gas-powered engines, they demand big, powerful batteries. Big enough, says MIT professor Gerbrand Ceder, that they may need their own internal highway systems.
Ceder and fellow researcher Byoungwoo Kang have developed a battery material they say can both discharge its energy and recharge at as much as 100 times the speed of today's batteries--fast enough to charge a cellphone battery in seconds or increase an electric auto engine's power tenfold.
In a paper they plan to publish in the March 12 issue of the journal Nature, the team describes a new method of tweaking a traditional energy-storing substance, lithium iron phosphate, so that charged particles can zip through set paths in the material's crystalline structure, finding their way into or out of a battery more rapidly than ever before.
"Devices should be able to charge as quickly as we put gas in a car," Ceder says. "If you can juice something up and go back to work in 30 seconds, that's a powerful difference."
His research team's "eureka" moment came when it tried coating lithium iron phosphate particles in a glassy film (lithium pyrophosphate) just a few nanometers thick. That film, Ceder says, acts as a high-speed transport system around the crystals, shuttling ions directly into and out of the tunnels' openings.
"It's like a speedway for lithium ions, a beltway that goes around the particle," says Ceder. "Once we assured fast transport of the ions to the entryway, so that they could be soaked up at the maximum speed, it was amazing. We immediately saw the kind of power we'd predicted.
The result, Ceder says, may be a battery that could both charge hundreds of times faster than traditional batteries as well as dump its energy into electronics at far greater speeds. "The ability to charge and discharge batteries in a matter of seconds rather than hours may open up new technological applications and induce lifestyle changes," the two researchers write in their Nature paper.