Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new breed of Lithium-ion micro-battery. These cells are smaller than traditional Li-ion batteries but can deliver “far more power than anybody ever thought”. In addition to their fantastic power supplying capability the new batteries will also be able to be charged “1,000 times faster” than current Li-ion cells. The implications for portable electronics and battery-powered cars could be enormous. According to VentureBeat the one major obstacle the researchers have to address is how to make cells manufacturable at costs low enough to be attractive.
What’s behind the new battery?
The A to Z of Nanotechnology news website sums up the key innovation in this new battery technology as “three-dimensional bicontinuous nanoporous electrodes”. Garnering a more plain-English explanation, the BBC interviewed the leader of the research efforts at the University of Illinois, Prof. William P. King, who explained “The battery electrodes have small intertwined fingers that reach into each other. That does a couple of things. It allows us to make the battery have a very high surface area even though the overall battery volume is extremely small”. As a result “we've reduced the flowing distance of the ions and electrons” meaning energy can be transferred, in and out, much faster.
In another statement discussing the research, Prof. King said “This is a whole new way to think about batteries. A battery can deliver far more power than anybody ever thought.” He lamented the lack of progress in battery tech over the years, “In recent decades, electronics have gotten small. The thinking parts of computers have gotten small. And the battery has lagged far behind. This is a microtechnology that could change all of that. Now the power source is as high-performance as the rest of it.”
What are the new battery technology capabilities?
“Any kind of electronic device is limited by the size of the battery – until now,” Prof. 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.” AtoZ Nano reports that the new batteries could enable devices to carry around 30 times more energy in the same amount of space that a conventional Li-ion battery uses up. Alternatively a device could output about 30 times more power over the same time. Manufacturers could choose their own optimal size/stamina balance for the devices they want to produce. Another researcher working on the project said that the new technology is not a progressive improvement but “breaks the normal paradigms of energy sources”.
The new battery tech is estimated to be in trials to power electronic equipment before the end of the year.