Lithium Ion Battery Innovations May Quicken Mobile Lifestyles

Lithium ions aren't so slow after all, engineers at MIT have discovered. Their newly proposed design for lithium ion batteries could lead to devices that charge in a matter of seconds. The news comes as smartphone and PC makers are looking to increase the battery life of their devices using new innovations. Apple recently announced that its MacBook Pro can hold an eight-hour charge, and its battery can take 1,000 charges during its lifetime.

Engineers at MIT have designed a new style of fast-charging lithium ion batteries - a charge that once took six minutes could be reduced to only 10 to 20 seconds, they found.

The new design is the work of MIT professor Gerbrand Ceder and graduate student Byoungwoo Kang, whose findings were published in the March 12 issue of Nature.

Lithium ion batteries are currently used in a wealth of consumer devices, including cell phones, and are also a considered power source in the development of electric cars.

Lithium ion power has been known to be slow to release and absorb power - which means batteries have been slow to charge, but then hold their charge well. About five years ago, MIT News reports, Ceder and colleagues discovered that lithium ions actually move quite fast, just not across the top of a battery. Ceder and Kang devised a new surface-structure design that moved the lithium ions around the outside of the material, "much like a beltway around a city."
Because their design doesn't rely on new materials, but simply a new design, Ceder hopes the new technique could make its way to market within two or three years.
"The ability to charge and discharge batteries in a matter of seconds rather than hours may open up new technological applications and induce lifestyle changes," wrote Ceder and Kang in their paper in Nature.
In addition to faster charges, testing showed the material doesn't degrade as quickly when repeatedly charged and recharged, which is said to lead to smaller and lighter batteries, since less material is needed to produce traditional results.
Apple has also recently been discussing battery advancements, since developing a slower-degrading battery - which its new commercials connect the dots to say will lead to less batteries in landfills. The new battery in 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro is reported to hold an eight-hour charge and can be charged up to 1,000 times, or approximately five years, which Apple estimates to be a life three times longer than most batteries.
The Apple battery development, however, is not based on lithium ion, but building a bigger battery directly into the laptop.