Photo of batteries via Moria via Flickr CC, molecules via Technology Review
Chemists have figured out a new way to charge up electronics that drastically speeds up how long it takes to fill up to full. Ibrahim Abou Hamad at Mississippi State University show off a new way to recharge lithium ion batteries that could be a huge boon for electronics across the board, but while we immediately think of how much faster we might be able to text away on our cell phones, or go snap photos with our digital cameras, the real impact could happen when it comes to electric cars and "range anxiety." Technology Review reports that chemists have found if you apply an oscillating electric field to the anode of a lithium battery, the recharge time drops. The team has studied the movement of lithium ions across graphene sheets, located in the anode of a lithium battery. They created a computer model of the forces acting on the ions and saw that by applying an electric field across the system, the ions are processed and stored in the graphene sheets much more quickly.
But by quickly, we mean at exponential rates. The team saw that by increasing the amplitude of the oscillating field, there is a huge increase in the speed at which energy can be stored. That means batteries recharged a whole lot faster.
"These simulations suggest a new charging method that has the potential to deliver much shorter charging times, as well as the possibility of providing higher power densities," states the team.
Sounds Good, But What's The Catch?
As Technology Review points out, this isn't necessarily a quick take-home fix. "If this oscillating field does improve charging time in real batteries, manufacturers will then have to check its effect on other performance metrics such as the number of these charging cycles a battery can withstand and how long it holds its charge."
These are really important things to address because should a faster recharge method mean a shorter battery lifespan, then the trade off might not be worth it - ultimately it's better to wait an extra hour and have fewer batteries processing through the consumer stream, than to see a potential increase in e-waste. What we're also curious about is if this would increase the amount of electricity it takes to recharge a battery faster. If it means a reduction in energy efficiency to get the same amount of energy into a battery, then again, the trade off isn't really worth it.
Still, the idea of being able to radically speed up recharging times is something everyone can be all ears about - especially when it comes to laptop computers, electric cars, and other devices that we depend on in a big way to always have power.