Thing of the past? The new mobile phone batteries will be recharged in just 10 seconds
A revolutionary mobile phone battery that recharges in 10 seconds instead of several hours has been created by scientists.
The new device charges 100 times as fast as a conventional battery and could also be used in phones, laptops, iPods and digital cameras within just two or three years, they say.
The same technology could even allow an electric car to be charged up in the same time that it takes to fill a conventional car with petrol – removing one of the biggest obstacles to green, clean motoring.
The quick-charge battery is the brainchild of engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The MIT team say their invention uses materials already available to battery manufacturers and would be simple to mass produce.
The invention is based on conventional lithium ion rechargeable batteries found in most cameras, phones and portable computers.
Lithium ion batteries are used in portable gadgets because they store a large amount of energy in a small space.
However, they are also relatively slow at recharging – which can be a nuisance for anyone who forgets to charge up their phone overnight.
Dr Gerbrand Cedar, who devised the new battery, said: ‘Electric car batteries have a lot of energy so you can drive at 55mph for a long time, but the power is low. You can’t accelerate quickly.’
Dr Cedar and colleagues have now found a way of speeding up this process, the science journal Nature reports.
Conventional lithium ion batteries contain two electrodes – one made from lithium and one from carbon – submerged in a liquid or paste called an electrolyte.
When a battery is being charged up, ions – or positively charged atoms – flow from the lithium electrode to the carbon one. When a battery is discharging, the ions flow the other way.
Charging up or discharging a battery is slow because it takes time to ‘detach’ the ions from one electrode and absorb them into the other.
The researchers took a conventional electrode made from lithium iron phosphate and altered its surface structure so that ions were released and absorbed 100 times more quickly than normal.
A prototype made using the new technique could be fully charged or discharged in just 10 to 20 seconds. A similar sized ordinary battery takes six minutes to charge.
Unlike other battery materials, the new material does not degrade when repeatedly charged and recharged. That could lead to faster batteries lasting between two or three years, they said.
‘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,’ Dr Ceder said.
The technology could also usher in a new generation of smaller, lighter batteries that allow phones and handheld batteries to be the size of credit cards.
Although the invention will be popular with owners of electronic portable gadgets – who will no longer need to remember to keep them charged up overnight – it could also usher in a new era of electric cars.
Bigger batteries for plug in electric cars could charge in just five minutes – compared with about eight hours for existing batteries.
Owners of electric cars would be free to drive long distances, safe in the knowledge that they could top up their battery in a few minutes at a service station – just like the owner of a petrol or diesel car.
By David Derbyshire
Last updated at 7:31 PM on 11th March 2009
Source: Daily Mail