Since mobile phones became popular, the importance of rechargeable electric batteries has been growing steadily around the world. According to Wikipedia, in 2013, there were an estimated 6.8 billion mobile phones in use worldwide (including smartphones) and 97 out of 100 people in the world owned at least one mobile phone. These numbers include some of the poorest among us. While a large number of users go no further than mere voice calls (and infrequent text messages), the availability of great, easy-to-use free ‘apps’ (or apps) increasing in variety and number every day. , is gradually attracting many in this category to become “prime” mobile phone users. Many people who use PCs as their primary computing device today, aware that they will soon give up their position of preeminence in the computing world, are also beginning to switch to smartphones. These factors are expected to lead to a 35% increase in the number of smartphone users by 2020 (or 9.2 billion users, globally).
As smartphones get thinner, lighter, smarter, use bigger screens, etc., they are also consuming more power. Therefore, the critical need for high capacity super fast charging batteries that can be recharged a large number of times before being destroyed, for the success of future smartphones.
There are also other important applications that rely on fast-charging batteries for their well-being. One is the highly celebrated electric vehicle (EV) industry. Users expect the battery recharging time to be comparable to the time it would take to fill up the fuel at a service station today, that is, on the order of 4-5 minutes. Another very important application is smart grids, those smart electrical energy management stations, where the inputs and outputs of electricity to users are managed. Large capacity fast charge / discharge batteries are required to store surplus energy (provided input exceeds demand) and release it when there is a deficit. Slightly less critical, though important, are fast-charging batteries used in smart watches, smart homes, and personal health devices (PHD).
A couple of years ago, it became unmistakably clear that lithium-ion batteries – the best battery technology in use today – would be grossly inadequate for future requirements. There is such a huge gap between lithium-ion technology and the projected battery of the future that it became quite obvious that nothing less than a “quantum leap” (or revolution) in battery technology would suffice. That’s why, while it hadn’t made the news yet, feverish and frenzied investigations had been launched at many of the major university and corporate R&D centers to find that exalted battery technology of the future with features like: charging time on the order of a few minutes or even seconds (wow!), lower weight (up to half for electric vehicle batteries), higher capacity, safety (no electrical fires and explosions reminiscent of the 2013 Boeing 787 mishaps .), significantly lower costs, easy handling, and cycle times in the thousands and tens of thousands.
Thinking of achieving a “quantum leap” in technology in 1-2 years would have left many in the scientific community dumbfounded in the recent past. But now things have changed! Man, having advanced the frontiers of scientific knowledge by unprecedented leaps and bounds in recent times, today’s researchers, sitting on the cusp of scientific knowledge, seem to offer very promising solutions in the blink of an eye.
So here is a list of the most promising technologies that are being researched at the time of this writing. (Note: Research on fast-charging batteries is currently awash with many alternative technologies vying for the No. 1 spot. Being so numerous, the author has not attempted to present an exhaustive list. Instead, the list below represents the best. of everything, in his opinion.)
ALUMINUM-GRAPHITE TECHNOLOGY (see reference numbers 2 and 4 for details):
At the top of the list is the aluminum-graphite technology being developed at Stanford University, USA It is amazing due to its 1 minute (yes, 60 seconds!) Load time. While its capacity is roughly half that of lithium-ion, it more than makes up for this shortcoming with its incredible charge time. Compared to Li-ion lifespan of approximately 1000 charge cycles, aluminum-graphite lasts at least 7500 cycles. It’s also much safer than Li-ion – researchers say even if you pierce it, it won’t catch fire!
ALUMINUM-AIR TECHNOLOGY (FOR VE) (reference numbers 1 and 2):
In the aluminum-air (Al-air) battery, oxygen from the air is used at the cathode and consequently a separate oxidant is not required. This type of battery has energy densities that could supply an electric vehicle with enough power to put it on par with its gasoline-powered counterparts. Range on a single full charge is approximately 1000 miles! A couple of recharges may be all you need if you drive up to 2,000 miles per month!
What is surprising about this battery is that it weighs only half the weight of today’s lithium battery. With half the weight of the depleted battery, you get a lot more payload for transporting passengers and goods (Note: The battery is by far the heaviest component in an EV. In the Tesla Roadster, for example, the battery contributes to about a third of the total weight, so that the weight saved, that is, one sixth of the total, is considerable).
ALUMINUM-AIR TECHNOLOGY (FOR VE) (Reference No 2):
This is a different type to the Al-air technology discussed above. It is surprising because it works with water (both ordinary and sea) and has 40 times the capacity of Li-ion!
FAST CHARGING BASED ON NANOTECHNOLOGY (Reference No.5):
StoreDot Ltd., an Israeli high-tech company dedicated to fast-charging batteries, will soon launch “FlashBattery for SmartPhones”, a universal charger for smartphones. The company uses proprietary organic compounds created / manipulated using nanotechnology.
What makes it captivating? You can recharge any phone, regardless of make or model, in one minute (maximum)!
In addition to phones, the charger can be used to charge portable devices, PHDs, tablets, and the like. However, there is a catch: although it is proven, it is not commercially available yet! It may take a year from now before it is available in retail stores.
StoreDot will also soon offer “FlashBattery for EV”, a fast charger for electric cars. This product is programmed to charge a car battery in just five minutes!
FAST CHARGING ON RADIO WAVES (Reference No 2):
In this technology, the electrical energy used for charging is transmitted through radio waves.
Not very surprising, except that it is wireless and charges from up to 20 feet away. And there is also a catch: it is not immediately available on the market.
ORGANIC FLOW TECHNOLOGY (Reference Number 2 and Wikipedia):
Developed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), organic flow technology generates electricity using an organic substance, AQDS (9,10-anthraquinone-2,7-disulfonic acid) as a charge carrier.
It amazes us by cutting 97% of the cost of electricity production (from batteries), while metal batteries provide 1 KWh of energy at $ 700, organic flow batteries provide you that amount of energy for only $ 700! 27!
NANOBATTERIES (reference numbers 2, 6 and Wikipedia):
Nanobatteries are manufactured from “nano” size batteries (that is, sizes in the range of 10 meters to -9 meters). “Nano” batteries are created by placing two electrodes in a small hole (or “nanopore”) in an electrically insulating membrane or metallic compound (such as aluminum oxide) separated by a thin insulating film. A large number of “nanopores” fuse together to form a complete battery.
Something superlative about them? Yes! The nanopores are so small that they are not individually visible. They can hold up to four times the energy of lithium ions and can be fully charged in 10 minutes. In addition, they have a useful life of about 1,000 charge cycles.
NTU LITHIUM-TITANIUM DIOXIDE TECHNOLOGY (FOR EVs) (Reference Number 7 and Wikipedia):
This is a technological breakthrough from Singapore-based Nanyang Technological University (NTU). By swapping out the graphite cathode found in lithium-ion batteries for an inexpensive gel made from titanium dioxide, NTU claims to have developed an ultra-fast-charging battery that charges to 70% of its capacity in two minutes. Aside from the two-minute charge time, what is surprising is its extraordinary 20-year lifespan.
Primarily aimed at electric vehicles, the battery life factor is expected to greatly reduce costs that would otherwise have arisen due to frequent battery replacements.
NOTE: As mentioned above, fast-charge battery research is an evolving field that is currently replete with several alternative technologies that show promise. Technologies based on metallic foam substrate, silicon, sodium ions, urine-driven microbial fuel cells, solar energy, hydrogen, candle soot and various others that are in R&D were omitted when making the above list, which the author believes that they are the best of the lot. One notable omission is Meredith Perry’s “air charging” technology, which uses electricity transmitted through ultrasound for charging. A long-awaited and highly prized technology until recently, it apparently failed recent evaluation tests, so it had to be dropped.
References: (Requires cut and paste the link in your browser to access reference numbers 3 to 7)
1. Jeffrey Marlow, “The 10 Hottest Fields of Scientific Research,” The 10 Hottest Fields of Scientific Research | Wired, http://www.wired.com/2013/08/the-10-hottest-fields-of-science-research/
2. Pocket-lint, “Future Batteries, Coming Soon: Charge In Seconds, Last Months And Charge Over The Air”, Future Batteries, Coming Soon: Charge In Seconds, Last Months And Charge Over The Air – Pocket-lint, http: // www. pocket-lint.com/news/130380-future-batteries-coming-soon-charge-in-seconds-last-months-and-power-over-the-air
3. ScienceDaily, “Batteries Research”, Batteries News – Science Daily, sciencedaily.com/news/matter_energy/batteries/
4. Stanford University, “Stanford Aluminum Battery Offers a Safe Alternative to Conventional Batteries”, news.stanford.edu/news/2015/march/aluminum-ion-battery-033115.HTML
5. StoreDot Ltd., “FlashBattery for Smartphones”, StoreDot What We Do, store-dot.com/#!smartphones/c1u5l
6. Ars Technica, “New battery composed of batches of nanobatteries” | Ars Technica, arstechnica.com/science/2014/11/new-battery-composed-of-lots-of-nanobatteries/
7. Nanyang Technological University, “NTU Develops Ultra-Fast Charging Batteries That Last 20 Years”, News Detail, media.ntu.edu.sg/NewsReleases/Pages/newsdetail.aspx?news=809fbb2f-95f0-4995-b5c0- 10ae4c50c934