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Itsy-Bitsy Battery Packs a Wallop

The battery of the future will be measured in millimeters and recharged in seconds. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have designed a new lithium-ion battery that’s 2,000 times more powerful than current storage technology and can be recharged 1,000 times quicker:

The batteries owe their high performance to their internal three-dimensional microstructure. Batteries have two key components: the anode (minus side) and cathode (plus side)…[Researchers] developed a new way to integrate the two components at the microscale to make a complete battery with superior performance.

With so much power, the batteries could enable sensors or radio signals that broadcast 30 times farther, or devices 30 times smaller…imagine juicing up a credit-card-thin phone in less than a second. In addition to consumer electronics, medical devices, lasers, sensors and other applications could see leaps forward in technology with such power sources available.

“Any kind of electronic device is limited by the size of the battery – until now,” [lead researcher William P.] King said. “Consider personal medical devices and implants, where the battery is an enormous brick, and it’s connected to itty-bitty electronics and tiny wires. Now the battery is also tiny.”

It won’t be revolutionary until it’s proven capable of commercial production. Nonetheless this is an extraordinary breakthrough that has countless important applications. Imagine jump-starting your car with your cell phone, and then recharging your phone battery in a matter of seconds. We can’t wait to own our own superbattery-powered devices.

[Battery image courtesy of Shutterstock.]

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  • Fat_Man

    “Imagine jump-starting your car with your cell phone,”

    Better yet, don’t. Cell phone batteries can’t be big enough to carry that much current without making the phone too big to be useful as a phone. There really are physical limits on these things.

  • Tim Godfrey

    A Nissan Leaf has a 24KWh battery.

    To charge in 1 hour (assuming no losses) it would require 24,000 watts to be transferred from the grid to the battery. If you had a 240 volt outlet it would have to deliver 100 amps over that hour – an amount that would require a charging cable at least 4 inches in diameter.

    In short, jump starting your car with your cell phone is not going to happen unless someone finds a way to repeal the laws of physics.

  • Andrew Allison

    Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow’s a looong way away. Interesting as this development is, unless/until it actually demonstrates a useful application . . . .? Consider: what percentage of the volume of a cell phone (or any other battery powered device) is represented by the battery?

    Might I respectfully suggest that VM focus on the here-and-now rather than the very fuzzy future. A good start might be to acknowledge that, contrary to the VM position that global warming has slowed, it has in fact reversed course.

  • Jim Luebke

    I could imagine the topography of anode and cathode surfaces in some kind of fractal pattern, increasing the surface area of each, and their proximity to each other. Of course, fabricating that kind of thing could be a bear.

    What kind of thermal / entropic issues are there with these, and how do they get around them?

  • JT

    Aw, this would be lovely. That has always been the problem with energy, it tends to be difficult to store. With all the new electronics requiring batteries, hopfully there will be continued improvement in this area.

    You never know what to make of these things, but recall a few years ago taking with some UofI engineering students that worked with electric cars. They seemed upbeat about what they were seeing with new battery technology being worked on. Possibly this is something they had witnessed being developed.

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