Batteries are the lifeblood of all consumer gadgets. They keep our mobile phones, ipods, computers and cars — moving. Li-ION batteries are some of the best humans have created to date and can be found in flashlights, remote controls, televisions and even video game cartridges (some use them to remember your saved games). One of the biggest issues with Lithium Ion (Li-ION) batteries is the recharge time needed so we can keep talking, driving or surfing.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have invented a new way to produce Li-ION batteries that combines ultra-rapid charging with the high-capacity we have come to love in our Li-ION batteries. They can charge the battery to 90% in two minutes. This is amazingly fast, and the process is simple, yet revolutionary.
A normal Li-ION battery is composed of layers of anodes and cathodes interspersed with separators. Lithium electrons from the ions travel from the cathode to the anode while the battery is charging and reverse the process when under load. This new design maximizes the number of points of contact to conduct that electron movement by creating a web of nickel. To create this web, the engineers took silica spheres (silica is similar to sand) of varying sizes and packed them into a designated space. Once the spheres were anchored, they filled the empty space with nickel creating a mesh, removed the silica and filled the space with the liquid electrolyte.
This web of nickel is the key to this new design. It allows the electrons to flow in and out of the whole of the battery rather than just at the points where electrodes touch (usually at an end or in a straight line throughout a layer). Also the capacity holds well even after 50 charge cycles.
The major change is this battery, rather than focusing on speeding up the movement of the ions, instead brings the mountain to Mohammad and decreases the distance those ions have to travel through the electrolyte liquid. Smart!
While not ready for large scale use yet, the technology should be easily scalable and could find its way into cell phone batteries soon. Rechargeable cars could also benefit from a ultra-rapid recharge station (while the owner gets coffee for example?) but then we come up against the limitations in current capacity on the power grid rather than the ability of the batteries.