Lithium-ion batteries are all the rage these days. They power our phones, tablets, laptops, MP3 players, and electric cars. Unfortunately, they have some draw backs. The batteries tend to degrade over time, discharge on their own, and don’t provide quite as much energy as our modern electronics and usage habits seem to require. Enter science. A group of Japanese researchers have developed a new material that could triple the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries.
The Register reports that Sumitomo Electric Industries has developed a new material called “Aluminum-Celmet,” which can be used to replace the “aluminum foil anode” inside the batteries. The new Aluminum Celmet material is 98 percent porous, much more porous than the foil, allowing more lithium to be put inside the battery. The researchers estimate that an automotive battery pack using their new substance could provide 1.5 to 3 times as much power capacity as a battery that size today. Of course, one could also retain the same capacity and actually reduce the size of the lithium-ion batteries by 1.5 to 3 times as well.
The substance is made from a fancy new procedure that involves applying a conductive coating to a plastic foam, then nickel-plating it, then heating the material to separate the foam and other materials, leaving a foam mesh that has a nice shimmer to it. The Aluminum-Celmet is based on Sumitomo’s nickel Celmet, which is already used to make nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal hydride batteries.
Sumitomo has not mentioned use in personal electronics yet, but we are hopeful that this new substance could lead to great improvements consumer electronics battery life as well since they run off of the same, albiet smaller, batteries. It would be nice to buy a smartphone that doesn’t need to be charged every night.