Scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory have made a breakthrough in battery energy density that could lighten the load of soldiers in the field and eventually lead to better batteries in our electronics. The scientists discovered that by adding a new substance to a single cell battery they could boost the energy density from four volts to five, a 30 percent increase.
"There has never been a battery, a single cell, that operated at five volts," Cynthia Lundgren, electrochemical branch chief at the laboratory explained. "Through our understanding of that interface, we were able to design an additive that you add into the electrolyte that is somewhat of a sacrificial agent. It preferentially reacts with the electrode and forms a stable interface. Now the battery is able to operate at five volts."
Army researcher Arthur Cresce, who helped design the substance two years ago said, "This is what you would call a quantum leap. We've gone from circling around a certain type of four volt energy for quite a while. All of a sudden a whole new class of batteries and voltages are open to us. The door is open that was closed before."
The Army has patented the technology and informed the battery industry of the breakthrough, which means it could make its way into our gadgets soon.
The Army hopes to use this discovery to create lighter batteries with higher densities for soldiers to carry, making more room in their packs for water or other essentials. Ultimately though the lab wants to focus on designing power systems that run on renewable energy or readily available sources like water. One idea is to create small fuel cells that run on hydrogen that has been split from water.
For both soldiers and civilians, better batteries open up greater possibilities for using renewable energy to fuel our gadgets and other electronics. Greater density and better materials mean better storage for things like solar or wind power that can be inconsistent sources of energy, but the best and cleanest options.