Just A Second, I Need To Charge My Battery

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Anyone who’s left a device plugged in for hours so it can recharge can appreciate the idea of a lithium-ion battery that recharges in just seconds. And it’s not just a pipe dream, say scientists. In fact, they have the evidence to prove it.

The new research is in Nature, and it all began when Gerbrand Ceder and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology modeled the movements of ions and electrons in a variant of the standard lithium material known as lithium iron phosphate, using a computer simulation.

The ions were moving fast, so there had to be some other reason batteries recharged so slowly. That turned out to be due to the fact that the ions has to pass through the material via a channel, whose entrance was on the surface, but to do so, they had to be directly opposite the entrance.

To speed things up, Ceder and his crew engineered a beltway to guide the ions toward the entrances, the BBC said. Using this method, a prototype battery charged fully in just 20 seconds, as opposed to six minutes for a sample without the beltway.

Additionally, lithium iron phosphate is cheap and doesn’t overheat in the way lithium-ion batteries sometimes can. Nor does it lose its charge capacity over time. That means it wouldn’t need the additional material currently put into batteries as compensation for that, leading to batteries that will be both smaller and lighter.

Since it would only require small changes in the current manufacturing process, Ceder thinks the new batteries could be commercially available within three years.