An illustration of a high power battery technology from the University of Illinois.
Over the last ten years, battery technology has improved, but now scientists claim they have made a giant leap in power storage, giving lithium-ion batteries 30 times more power and the ability to recharge 1,000 times faster “than competing technologies.”
This is a battery breakthrough that could change the world — it’s “a whole new way to think about batteries,” according to its creators. The team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, headed up by Professor William King, wrote about the technology in the April 16 issue of Nature Communications.
According to King, battery technology has “lagged far behind” the technology it powers. He says in a press release that his microtechnology “could change all of that. Now the power source is as high performance as the rest of it.”
The batteries are so powerful, King says you could use the power storage device in your cellphone to jumpstart your car battery.
How has the team accomplished this seemingly miraculous breakthrough? The secret is extreme miniaturization of the conventional elements of traditional batteries, the anode and the cathode. Assembling these in a 3D microstructure, the researchers have developed what their press release says is “a new way to integrate the two components at the microscale to make a complete battery with superior performance.”
What’s next? Like most scientific breakthroughs, the scientists are now working on making the technology affordable, and adapting it to fit into today’s tightly packed environments of smartphones and other gadgetry. Said the press release, “imagine juicing up a credit-card-thin phone in less than a second.”
We contacted King, asking him when he thinks we might see this technology in our hands, and what devices might be first to use it. He said, “We are past the laboratory demonstration stage, working with systems integrators now.”
King said the technology could be available for consumers in “perhaps 1-2 years.” Where might we see these super batteries first? Says King, “The first applications of this technology will be to be replace supercapacitors in radios and personal electronics.”
Imagine what a battery with this kind of power could do to our world, which is increasingly dependent on energy storage devices. Electric cars could become a lot more practical and recharge in less than the time it takes to fill up a gas tank. Solar power could be stored easily overnight with incredible efficiency, and many devices that now must be plugged in could be powered by these super batteries.
It’s interesting that this technology originated at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the birthplace of the fictional HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Photo credit: Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology