Lithium ion batteries pretty much made the entire mobile device enviroment that we have today. Without these relatively efficient and shapeable batteries, you might still be lugging your sleek smartphones on AAs.
But, all good things must come to an end… for something that’s even better! Turns out, that a new battery technology may just kick Li-ion batteries out of the picture as it did with its predecessors.
Why Li-ion Batteries ‘Suck’
Batteries are rechargeable because of the way electron production can be reversed and recreated in both directions. For Li-ion batteries, this means transferring lithium ions to and from the negative (made of lithium metal oxide) and positive electrodes (made of carbon) via internal current and external current.
However, there’s a catch to this mechanism. Heat, for instance, is very detrimental to the performance of Li-ion batteries, limiting its maximum capacity, or transferrable ions, thus significantly decreasing its efficiency and charge cycle lifespan. Another problem is when Li-ion batteries are recharged too quickly. Lithium starts to accumulate ever so gradually within the battery electrolyte in long, narrow forms, further increasing the risk of thermal accidents like Samsung’s previous explosive fiasco.
Glass Batteries: Too Good to Be True?
Here’s where the almost miraculous properties of the new battery technology come in. A team of engineers at the University of Texas led by none other than Li-ion battery co-inventor John Goodenough has a developed a solid state battery that enhances all properties already exhibited by Li-ion batteries a few times over.
How does this quantify you ask? For example, the new battery has about three times more charge capacity than a competing Li-ion battery of the same size. It can also survive far more charge cycles before suffering a considerable decrease in efficiency. Best of all, this new battery can be fully charged in minutes, within capacities that would typically take hours for a Li-ion battery.
John Goodenough based their new invention on a research by Portuguese researcher Maria Helena Braga, who developed a glass electrolyte capable of bypassing most of Li-ion’s worst disadvantages. Instead of lithium ions moving through the electrolyte towards the negative porous carbon side, the metal ions pass through the glass electrolyte, forming a coating on the negative side.
The incredible properties of the newly developed battery do place a considerable doubt into its credibility. After all, everything that it does just sound too good to be true. However, the confirmed publication about the subject pretty much proves that the data is legit, as is the fact that its research is led by the very man who achieved a similar research accomplishment several decades earlier.
The Battery Paradigm Shifts
Being that the negative side has a surface made of the same material as the positive side when it discharges, the new glass battery actually shouldn’t work eventually due to the disappearance of any potential difference (voltage) between the two materials. But, it does, and according to the research, it works very, very well.
For one thing, it can operate within the temperature ranges between -20 to 60 degrees celsius, without any traceable loss of efficiency between charge cycles. This means that not only can it be used with most of your mobile devices today, it can have larger applications, such as in electric vehicles (EVs). The new battery’s charge speed could definitively remove the last disadvantage of EVs forever.
Most importantly, it uses materials that are already in common industrial use (e.g. sodium and lithium), which means building infrastructure for its upcoming market will not be as difficult as building it from scratch.
Source: University of Texas