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back to article Boffins build bionic battery

Researchers have devised an electrode material that allows lithium-ion batteries to hold ten times the charge they do today - and recharge ten times as quickly. The trick, uncovered by scientists at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois led by Professor Harold Kung, is to build the battery's positive electrode, the anode …

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Go

Longer lasting? Quicker Charging?

They need to get this junk in electric cars, and quick.

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Optimistic?

"Even after 150 charges, which would be one year or more of operation"

It would be 150 days of operation on most people's normal charging cycle (the phone goes on charger overnight), but maybe the 10x capacity will help if it isn't used to make phones smaller and lighter.

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Anonymous Coward

150 charges = more like 3 years

(if it needs charging 10 times less frequently)

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Go

Graphene...

Is there anything it can't do?

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Call me when it's actually being used in something.

I hear a dozen reports a day about these incredible new technologies that will revolutionise how we live our lives and how many of them ever make it as far as a commercial product?

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@Oliver Mayes

Well, you could go back 4-5 years, check out some of those dozen reports you read every day, and see which made it to production. That should give you some idea.

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@James

Next to none. It was 4 years ago we read about similar revolutionary battery tech and was also compared to Li-on batteries. Why don't such techs make it to mainstream? They're expensive to replicate. Didn't we have flat-panel displays on trash-bag plastic that could be rolled inside of a pen and used on the beach a few years back? Yeah, didn't get far either.

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Fed up with hearing of these things...

Every few weeks/months I see yet another story of battery technology that can do so much more, or discoveries of so-much-more-efficient solar cells.

None of them ever make it to a commercial product, and until someone actually makes it worthwhile doing so I'm really not interested.

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Ru
Facepalm

Oh no! Cancel all reasearch at once!

You evidently have no conception of how long it takes to go from an academic paper to a consumer product. Hint: it won't happen over night. Even a five year turnaround would be quite impressive.

You only say "none of them ever make it to a commercial product" because you do not pay attention to the progress of technology, or because you are a five year old. If you are the latter, I congratulate you on your precociousness. Otherwise, quit whining and go back to your regularly scheduled enjoyment of technologies that were research projects 10 years ago.

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You hear that?

That's the sound of patents being filed!

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Mushroom

Think of the kids!

All well and good, but it's going to fry the rest of the phone as it tries to draw 50 amps through tha dinky little charger...

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What kind of power source is required to power these batteries up to 90% in 20 seconds then ? Something a bit more juicy than UK mains I'd assume ?

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Flame

am I missing something here in the calculations...

The dinky little 3.6V battery in my Sony Ericsson is rated at 3.3 Wh (that's roughly 11kJ).

If it was going to hold 10 times the energy and be chargeable in 20 seconds to 90% (about 100kJ), I make that 5000J/s (watts) - we'd be putting close to 1400A at 3.6V through the charger output - even with 100% conversion efficiency that's about 22A at the wall socket!

Maybe they don't give the charging time to 100%, because by 90% the charger's already a blob of molten plastic and metal!

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You're mixing two articles.

One is 10 times the charge, 10 times faster, the other (article, from march) is 90% in 20 seconds. Your Sony doesn't today charge 90% in 3'20", does it ?

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Boffin

You've got it in one.

x10 the battery means x10 the amount of current just to keep the charging time the same as the old battery.

If they want to half the charging time, they'll have to double the current!

Can you imagine a cellphone charger with huge car battery-type thick cables running out to it?

The only thing they can do to avoid this is to dramatically increase the voltage of the battery.

Expect 50-100V cellphone batteries...!

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Mushroom

Thats nothing.. My 5000MAh RC car battery would require a staggering 12900A at 14.8V to charge in 20s.

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Facepalm

Ahh, that'll be it then... by the time I got to the comments page I'd forgotten they were different stories.

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Anonymous Coward

150 charges!

My phone gets topped up a couple of times every day and I've got spare batteries and emergency AA chargers in every coat pocket it seems. I use my phone for pretty much everything that I used to use my laptop for so the screen is on all the time, draining the battery like crazy. I wish some-one would just supply a phone with a battery that can power the display for 8 hours.

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Anonymous Coward

You saw the part about it lasting 10 times as long, right? If your current battery only lasts half a day, these ones would theoretically last 5 days. 150 charges at one every 5 days = 750 days. Almost 2 years.

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Why do these amazing new battery breakthroughs never actually materialize in a product? Such as e.g. an electric car that can actually be compared favorably to traditional cars, or a smartphone battery that can last a week of real-life use? We seem to hear new nanocrap every other week that makes batteries 125% better, but somehow the actual applications still last pretty much the same.

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Because you aren't paying attention

While "pure" R&D may often appear to happen in leaps and bounds, actual engineering tends to happen in small steps. If in doubt, look at battery technology today compared to batteries of 5 years ago, 10 years ago, and 20 years ago. Another area to look at is power electronics, which went from being non-existent, to expensive and rare, to cheap and ubiquitous. All these new, exciting discoveries you keep hearing about? Expect these technologies and more to show up in your hand 10 or more years from now, not next year, and you probably won't be too disappointed.

-d

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Boffin

Clearly

these must be made from the Wompom. There is nothing that a Wompom cannot do.

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Power storage is key

Of all the tech articles its the ones about power storage that I'm most interested in, forget about the nuke/green debate - if we accept that a large part of our current power consumption is going to move from chemical to electric then is the portable or distributed storage of charge that is whats really missing. I strongly suspect that most research is now aimed at home or vehicle based storage - device batteries are for my money at the good enough stage for most people and heavy users can carry a swapable spare.

As far as stuff never making it to market - yup most of these wont, someone will find a reason why production is harder than they thought, or more likely they'll find an even better way to do it. But there is a very clear trend of inovations in this area.

This really does remind me of e-ink, there was a good 5-10 years of that being demonstrated on small scales before there was an real product that used it. Within about 3-4 years kit like the kindle has become truely mass market and costs are still dropping.

Look at todays electric cars, for them to be usable for me they need a range of at least 5-600 miles and a 0-100% recharge of less than 30 minutes (at shorter ranges I can recharge at home, at full range I'm going to be there a while). I do about 20,000 business miles a year and probably have a 400+ mile day at least once every 6 weeks.

This represents a 2-3 times increase in range and somewhere in excess of a 10x decrease in charge time, they also probably need to bring the cost of the power pack itself down by 50-75%. With stuff like this in the lab I'd guess we're reasonably looking at 4-7 years before its usable for my driving pattern.

My money would still be on ultra capacitors as the long term winner even if they dont hit the same power density as batteries. Mainly because they only appear to require carbon in thier construction (which will make them very attractive from an access to raw materials perspective and because they don't seem to have the same fire risks). More to the point, the biggest thing they need to improve is charge time and capacitors seem to rock there.

Just need to hit the "good enough" and "cheap enough" mark and this will suddenly take off.

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bep

On the other hand

"device batteries are for my money at the good enough stage for most people and heavy users can carry a swapable spare."

Hardly. More and more people, like yours truly, are carring around a slim, large screen device that lasts for a day on a charge and doesn't have a replaceable battery. A battery that lasts a week for such devices would be fantastic and sell in the gazillions if, a big if, it is affordable

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hmm

Heard it before, but if it happens this time, it would make the inventor a fortune. Just think, a smartphone that ran for a week, just like phones used to!

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Happy

just think

a whole weeks use from a mobile phone before it needs charging, who would have every thought it :)

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It'll be like the early 2000s all over again :)

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Fantastic!

Even if only half of the theoretical improvement can make it to production it will be a huge boost to electric cars, phones, laptops etc. Especially cars though, because the 2 huge stumbling blocks are range and charge time. If range can be doubled-tripled and charge time improved by a factor of 10, they will really match and surpass petrol/diesel in range and practicality, not just in running cost and acceleration

For all those people complaining that past touted discoveries did not make it into production... how quickly do you forget the crappy battery life of Ni-ion batteries that were standard fare just 10 years ago? It's not that battery capacity hasn't increased, it's that all the advances in battery technology have been used to stuff more and more power-guzzling screens and CPUs into our technology. Plus teh ridiculous notion that a phone has to be wafer-thin to be 'cool'. Just leave a phone with min 1cm depth, then it can fit a decent battery AND is much more confortable to hold.

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Mushroom

Current lithium batteries are bad enough when they catch fire. I'd hate to have someting with ten times the energy in my pocket when it went postal.

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Boffin

BOOM

Read some of Larry Niven's SF. Safeties on batteries ( super ) can be circumvented to turn them into grenades/bombs. Let's just wait & see. The future awaits us!

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Ah that's why all Star Trek/Stargate/<fill in Sci-Fi series here> Phasers can be turned into bombs on demand then!

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Now for the bad news..

I wonder how long it will take for the TSA to cotton on the fact that such batteries will in principle be very nice bombs when shorted. You saw what Dell could do with a laptop - imagine 10x that amount of energy available..

On the other hand - let's hope we can make even faster batteries. If we find a way to even inefficiently store the energy one *single* flash of lightning produces we'd be saving a lot of joules in one go..

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WTF?

So... It looses 50% of it's capacity in 150 charges....

Or at least, that's the case if it starts out at 10 X normal capacity, and ends up on 5X.

"...which would be one year or more of operation, the battery is still five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today," Kung claimed."

So how long before it drops to 1/10th of it's capacity then? Is it an exponential drop off in capacity, or linear with number of charge cycles?

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Coat

Kung's anode...

Sounds nasty. Best get that to A+E pronto.

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Another plus

At last something to power those frikkin shark mounted lasers!

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The sad thing these days? We've got all the huge wind farms, and the grid can't cope with the output.

Apparently it's mostly windy at night, and that's when people don't use the electricity.

The only place that makes use of it so far is in Wales. They use excess energy to pump water up a hill/mountain. Then when the energy is needed, they open the flood gates to generate Hydro power.

The sad thing is - I believe this is the only one in the country!

So electrical storage is extremely important!

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