Super Fast Batteries

You probably know this problem: You didn’t charge your phone for one day, and when you get to university in the morning it dies – and you didn’t bring your charger. That’s usually a bad start to the day, since we are all lost without our omniscient communication devices these days. Or you are maybe one of those people, who already charge their phone every day, but the battery dies after 13 hours. Because you know about the bad habits of your phone, you usually don’t leave the house without your charger, but once the phone is dead you usually have to charge it for at least 15 minutes to make it work for the next maybe two hours, and then you’ll have to find a place to revitalise it again. What if researchers at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore had already found a solution to this problem – wouldn’t that be awesome? Wouldn’t we be waiting very impatiently for this solution to arrive on the market?

The Answer is TiO2 Nanotubes

Batteries - tomblois via flickr [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
tomblois via flickr [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
What the researchers at NTU invented is basically a slightly changed version of lithium ion batteries. In the currently used version, lithium ions are embedded in a graphite network. Apparently replacing this graphite network with a network of titanium dioxide nanotubes significantly increases the mobility of ions and electrons in the battery, resulting in record-breaking charging times of 70 % in only two minutes. The new batteries will also be able to survive up to 10,000 charging cycles. For comparison: currently used batteries only last about 500 charging cycles. The graphite based batteries contain additives which improve the speed of electron and ion transfers. Those additives aren’t needed in the TiO2 based form, which additionally improves the energy density ratio of these batteries. That means: you have more energy in less space.

What sounds difficult – TiO2 nanotubes – is actually quite simple to make. According to Professor Chen from NTU, you only have to mix titanium dioxide and sodium hydroxide in water and stir it at a certain temperature to get the new nanogel. This makes it easy for existing companies to include the new invention into their production processes.

What else is going to change?

Your phone is probably not the only thing that will be affected by the new super-battery. It could also contribute a lot to the green energy revolution. The most common arguments against electrical cars are that they have short range, and that their batteries need too long to recharge and have to be replaced too often. Current batteries in electrical cars usually survive for only two years or so, and replacing them costs about $5000. These reasons make electrical cars a very unattractive alternative to fuel based cars. But all these problems seem to be solved by this new battery. Because of their higher energy density, cars with these batteries would have a longer range, and if recharging 70 % of their capacity only takes 5 minutes, you could probably recharge your whole car battery during your ordinary coffee break.

So if Professor Chen is right and the battery companies will find it easy to change their production processes to the new nanogel battery, we can hope to find them soon on the market. Are you excited?

Read more: