New battery could revolutionise consumer electronics and cars

Scientific breakthrough creates batteries that are 10 times more powerful, and recharge 1,000 times faster than traditional batteries.

 

Scientists in the US have developed a new type of battery that is ten times as powerful and charges up to 1,000 times faster than those found on shelves today, without increasing in size.

The new technology has the potential to completely revolutionise consumer electronics and electric cars. However, the scientist behind the development have warned there are still safety issues that need to be worked out.

Details of the research were published in the journal Nature.

The scientists behind the discovery have said their innovation should help battery capacity catch up with recent developments in electronics.

According to the journal, the new technique developed allows the research team to shrink the anode and the cathode down to a previously unattainable level.

Because of this, the new batteries are far smaller than their current counterparts. That in turn increases the surface area of the battery, while reducing the distance the charge has to travel.

"The battery electrodes have small intertwined fingers that reach into each other," project leader Prof William King told the BBC.

"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.

"And it gets the two halves of the battery very close together so the ions and electrons do not have far to flow.

"Because we've reduced the flowing distance of the ions and electrons we can get the energy out much faster."

Currently the team is able to produce small amounts of the new batteries reliably. However, it will require significant investment to roll out the technology to make it commercially viable.

Today we're making small numbers of these things in a boutique fabrication process, but while that's reliable and we can repeat it we need to be able to make large numbers of these things over large areas," said Prof King.

"But in principle our technology is scalable all the way up to electronics and vehicles.

"You could replace your car battery with one of our batteries and it would be 10 times smaller, or 10 times more powerful. With that in mind you could jumpstart a car with the battery in your cell phone."

However, some scientists have expressed concerns about the risk of unintended chemical reactions.

"This is a very exciting development which demonstrates that high power densities are achievable by such innovations," Professor Peter Edwards of the University of Oxford told the BBC.

"The challenges are: scaling this up to manufacturing levels; developing a simpler fabrication route; and addressing safety issues," said Prof Edwards, who is an expert in inorganic chemistry and energy.

"I'd want to know if these micro-batteries would be more prone to the self-combustion issues that plagued lithium-cobalt oxide batteries which we've seen become an issue of concern with Boeing's Dreamliner jets."

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