From the heavy lead acid batteries to today's most widely used light and power-dense lithium ion batteries, the battery technology has seen improvements both in size and performance. The three important things to decide the performance of batteries are anode, cathode and the electrolyte. There is another factor of keeping the cost of manufacturing and material low. The material and the way they are physically built inside the batteries are the differentiators in the performance of the battery.
This article gives you an update on the latest technologies in improving the performance of the batteries.
One method to improve the storage capacity of battery is to increase the surface area of the anode and cathode by making them porous. Another method to increase the surface area is to have a 3D nano structured anode and cathode, kind of a self assembled nano wires or such nano structures bonded closely.
In the material research area, the material's electrochemical/ionic characteristics matter a lot. A graphite anode which is popularly used in present lithium batteries need six carbon atoms for every lithium atom, whereas one silicon atom can bond up to 3.75 lithium atoms. Silicon can have a theoretical storage capacity of 3.6 Ampere hours per gram. So material such as silicon are tried out as a replacement for graphite.
Start-up company called SiNode Systems is using a composite material of silicon nano structures and graphene, kind of a graphene drilled with tiny holes as anode resulting in tenfold increase in storage capacity. This structure is also expected to reduce the charging time by 10 times.
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The research team at USC Viterbi School of engineering have developed anode using porous silicon nano wires to solve the problem of what is called as pulverisation of electrode due to expansion and contraction. This team is working further to integrate the silicon anode with the sulfur cathode and other traditional cathode materials, in order to maximize lithium-ion battery capacity and overall performance.
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Researchers are trying out silicon-based nano nets. Basically researchers are trying to trap, coat, deposit electrode material on spongy structures.
Another important trend is, scientists are using less and less toxic material in future batteries, so that recycling them becomes less dangerous.
Rensselaer's researchers have tried to replace most commonly used cobalt, graphite in today's lithium batteries with all carbon lithium batteries with a higher energy density and also less toxic materials.
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Improvement in electrolyte: Researchers at the University of Tokyo and National Institute of Materials Science, Japan have developed a new electrolyte with higher concentration of lithium ion offering higher stability and fast reaction kinetics in the superconcentrated electrolyte far exceeding present commercial electrolyte. The new electrolyte can make the battery to produce 5 Volts and can be charged at 1/3 time compared to present Lithium batteries.
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You see there are many research groups as well as companies working on to improve the performance of the battery. The successful company is going to be the one which produce high performance batteries at low price.
Even in the power electronics, there is improvement in making the charging faster. Tesla electric car uses a high voltage based fast charging technology to charge much of the battery within 20 minutes.
This technology called adaptive rapid charging is used now in mobile devices also. The power management IC inside the adapter/charger receives commands from the mobile device about the battery's capacity and other para meters so that higher voltage can be fed to the battery for faster charging. So it is real-time monitoring of the battery by the mobile charging device and communicating in real-time to the charger about the ability of the battery to withstand high voltage charging. The power management IC inside the mobile device or any battery-operated device/system continuously monitor the health of the battery both during charging and discharging to find out whether it can be charged at higher current/voltage.
There is a company called Qnovo which has pioneered this technology and has few patents. To know more on Qnovo visit http://www.qnovocorp.com/products/
QUALCOMM has developed similar technology called Quick Charge 2.0 which can charge up to 75 percent faster than products without this technology. There are already mobile phones in the market employing Quick Charge 2.0 tech.
The intersting starups in Lithium battery technologies include: Amprius, Prieto, Sakti3, Sila Nano, Envia.
But to tell you one big company which is already doing very good commercially is Panasonic, whose batteries are used in most selling electric cars such as Tesla as well as many electronic device applications.
So next time when you pick up a smart phone or electric car you can check whether it can be charged within 15 to 20 minutes to much of its capacity? Whenever you go for lunch or coffee break your phone/car can also charge like the way you charge your own internal bio-system, quickly and enough for the day.