Boffins Claim ‘Super Battery’ Breakthrough

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Smartphone battery © Pavel Ignatov Shutterstock 2012

Researchers in America claim to have invented a new type of “super battery” that may transform gadgets

Researchers are claiming a breakthrough which promises to substantially increase the power of batteries, or dramatically reduce their physical size.

Scientists at the University of Illinois revealed the breakthrough in the journal Nature Communications.

New micoarchitecture

They claimed to have developed a new lithium-ion battery microarchitecture, which can concurrently optimise ion and electron transport for high-power delivery.

This new microarchitecture theoretically could allow the manufacturer either to build a battery of a similar size to the current generation of lithium ion batteries found in today’s smartphones, but with thirty times the power.

UPS uninterruptible power supply battery energy © nikkytok ShutterstockOr the microarchitecture could be tweaked to allow for much smaller batteries to be designed and built to power today’s ever shrinking range of tech gadgets. Indeed, researchers claim their technology could shrink the size of batteries by 10 times while offering the same power.

The team at the University of Illinois team have utilised 3D-electrodes, which allow these new super batteries to be recharged 1,000 times faster than the current generation of batteries.

At the moment, when a device such a smartphone or tablet is connected to a battery, a reaction occurs that produces electrical energy. This is known as an electrochemical reaction. The battery itself has two parts, an anode (-), a cathode (+). The cathode and anode are hooked up to an electrical circuit.

The team claim to have designed an extreme miniaturisation of the conventional elements of traditional batteries, i.e. the anode and the cathode.

Battery Laggards

“The batteries owe their high performance to their internal three-dimensional microstructure,” said the team in their official statement. “Batteries have two key components: the anode (minus side) and cathode (plus side). Building on a novel fast-charging cathode design by materials science and engineering professor Paul Braun’s group, King and Pikul developed a matching anode and then 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.

“The batteries are rechargeable and can charge 1,000 times faster than competing technologies – 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.”

“This is a whole new way to think about batteries,” added William P. King, the Bliss Professor of mechanical science and engineering. “A battery can deliver far more power than anybody ever thought. 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.

“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.”

Scientists are pushing hard to produce the next great battery advancement. In March 2011, a team of electrical engineers at Illinois University revealed they were developing a new type of battery that could extend the running time of mobile phones a hundredfold. That battery used carbon nanotubes, which are 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, rather than traditional metal wires.

And in November 2011, researchers at Stanford University revealed a new nanoparticle material which could be used to create everlasting batteries suitable for electrical grids. According to the researchers, the material could be used for batteries that would be good for 30 years of useful life.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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