Battery life is just about the biggest bugbear of the modern smartphone. Few handsets can make it through a single day of usage without needing a top-up charge somewhere along the way, and don’t get us even started on the pain of using a phone to cover events live. The days of spare batteries and portable chargers may soon be over, though, thanks to a new breakthrough from a team of researchers at Stanford University, which has created what they believe could be ‘holy grail’ of battery design: a lithium anode battery.
The science is pretty straightforward: right now all phones (and laptops and tablets) use lithium ion batteries. In a lithium ion cell, the electrolyte – the fluid which separates the anode and cathode (positive and negative poles) contains positively charged lithium ions which gather around a graphite or silicon anode to create the battery charge. In essence, a lithium anode battery simply takes out the middle man by building the lithium into the anode design. By doing this, it’s reckoned you can store anywhere from 200% – 400% of the energy that current designs can manage in the same size and weight battery.
The challenge is controlling the way lithium expands during battery charging – which is a lot more volatile and unpredictable than current anode materials and leads to shorter overall battery lifespan. It’s this troubling aspect of lithium’s behaviour that leads to smartphone batteries overheating and saw Boeing’s new Dreamliner planes catching on fire from their battery packs.
But it’s what the Stanford team reckon they’ve cracked.
If this technology goes into mass production, it would mean electric cars that could make the journey from Johannesburg to Durban on a single charge or a smartphone that could run for an entire weekend without needing to be charged.
The Stanford team, which includes former US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, is using a microscopic layer of carbon to keep the lithium in check and is closing in on being able to make a stable, efficient battery that will last for years instead of just a few weeks which would signal that the technology would be ready to mass produce and be used inside the gadgets of the future safely.
If you’re vaguely curious then we suggest giving the full article a read from the source link below.[Source – phys.org, Via – Engadget]