May 03, 2011 12:32 ET
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - May 3, 2011) - The days of waiting hours to charge a mobile phone or laptop computer could soon be over because of research that could transform battery technology in as little as two years. A new way of making battery electrodes based on nano-structured metal foams has been used to make a lithium-ion battery that can be 90 percent charged in two minutes. Manchester Interactive Marketing has learnt that if the method can be commercialised, it could lead to laptops that charge in a few minutes or cell phones that charge in 30 seconds.
How fast a battery can charge up and then release that power is primarily limited by the movement of electrons and ions into and out of the cathode, the electrode that is negative during recharging. Researchers have been trying to use nano-structured materials to improve the process, but there's usually a trade-off between total energy storage capacity (which determines how long a battery can run before needing a recharge) and charge rates. "People solved half the problem," says Paul Braun professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Braun and his co-workers found that the lithium-ion battery could charge and discharge between 10 and 100 times more quickly than the fastest devices on the market today. Its storage capacity was actually slightly larger than normal (by about 10% to 20%). And because every step of their manufacturing process is used in industry today, the researchers say there should be no major problems with incorporating their cathodes into commercial batteries. They just need to show how to scale up their technology—so far they've tried it only on watch-size batteries. "I have every reason to believe we can scale up," says Braun, "and we are looking to partner with the right people to do that." The technology has been nicknamed the "beltway battery", after the orbital motorway in Washington DC, because it uses a bypass system to let lithium ions that carry charge to enter and leave the battery more quickly.
This battery is set to change the way of life as soon you will be able to recharge your phone or laptop while you stand or wait. Manchester Interactive Marketing is looking forward to the release of this technology into the commercial batteries so they can use it to enhance their business. Up until now, researchers assumed that there was a speed limit on the lithium ions and electrons inside li-ion batteries. But recently the MIT team engineered a "beltway" to guide ions towards an energy highway inside the lithium iron phosphate battery material. Unlike other popular battery materials like lithium cobalt, lithium iron phosphate doesn't degrade much when charged and recharged--so batteries can be smaller and lighter since less material yields the same result.
The new battery can be fully charged or discharged in 10 to 20 seconds. As you can imagine, there are a host of benefits to such a quick-charging li-on battery. 10-second cell phone and laptop charges are luxuries we could all appreciate, but the real story here is with electric cars. Batteries that discharge quickly can create a burst of energy in the cars, leading to improved highway acceleration. And while quick-charging electric car batteries aren't yet possible due to the limited amount of power available to households on the electric grid, the new li-ion batteries could one day make charging a Chevy Volt as easy as a trip to the gas station. And that's an improvement that could lead to an electric car revolution, something we here at Manchester Interactive Marketing are extremely excited about!
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