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LITHIUM-ION BATTERY INVENTOR TOUTS NEW BATTERY BREAKTHROUGH

Not all tech geniuses are barely old enough to shave. For proof, look no further than John Goodenough, who was 57 years old when he co-invented the lithium ion battery, which is very likely the power source for, among other things, the device on which you’re reading this.

But that was 37 years ago. Now, at the spry age of 94, Goodenough, a professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, has one-upped himself.

Goodenough and senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga recently announced the development of an all-solid-state battery that beats lithium-ion in every way imaginable. It’s cheap, it has a longer life cycle, it charges and discharges quickly and, best of all, it’s noncombustible — meaning it won’t explode and burst into flames. Are you listening, Samsung?

Goodenough and Braga, who are seeking several patents, hope the technology could revolutionize the powering of electric vehicles and energy storage devices, according UT News.

The all-solid-state battery cells have at least three times as much energy density as lithium-ion batteries, which could greatly extend how far an electric vehicle can travel before it needs to be recharged. The new battery can be charged and discharged more times than a lithium-cell battery, meaning it will last longer. And charging and recharging can be accomplished in minutes, not hours.

Goodenough and Braga describe the technology in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

The advent of a Li+ or Na+ glass electrolyte with a cation conductivity σi > 10−2 S cm−1 at 25 °C and a motional enthalpy ΔHm = 0.06 eV that is wet by a metallic lithium or sodium anode is used to develop a new strategy for an all-solid-state, rechargeable, metal-plating battery. During discharge, a cell plates the metal of an anode of high-energy Fermi level such as lithium or sodium onto a cathode current collector with a low-energy Fermi level; the voltage of the cell may be determined by a cathode redox center having an energy between the Fermi levels of the anode and that of the cathode current collector. This strategy is demonstrated with a solid electrolyte that not only is wet by the metallic anode, but also has a dielectric constant capable of creating a large electric-double-layer capacitance at the two electrode/electrolyte interfaces.

Here’s what that means in English, according UT News:

Lithium-ion batteries use liquid electrolytes to transport lithium ions between the negative and positive sides of a battery. If the battery cell is charged too quickly, it can cause a short circuit that can lead to explosions and fires.

But Goodenough and Braga’s all-solid-state battery uses glass electrolytes instead of liquid ones. The result is a battery that can have high conductivity at 4 degrees below zero (-20 degrees Celsius) — wonderful news for electric car owners — and is made from earth-friendly materials.

“The glass electrolytes allow for the substitution of low-cost sodium for lithium,” Braga said. “Sodium is extracted from seawater that is widely available.”

Longer-lasting, faster-charging, more energy-dense and won’t blow up. What more could you want from a battery?

In 37 years, when he’s 131 years old, John Goodenough will let us know.

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FUTURE BATTERIES, COMING SOON: CHARGE IN SECONDS, LAST MONTHS AND POWER OVER THE AIR

While smartphones, smarthomes and even smart wearables are growing ever more advanced, they’re still limited by power. The battery hasn’t advanced in decades. But we’re on the verge of a power revolution.

Big technology companies, and now car companies that are making electric vehicles, are all too aware of the limitations of lithium-ion batteries. While chips and operating systems are becoming more efficient to save power we’re still only looking at a day or two of use on a smartphone before having to recharge. That’s why universities are getting involved.

We’ve seen a plethora of battery discoveries coming out of universities all over the world. Tech companies and car manufacturers are pumping money into battery development, and with races like Formula E adding pressure to improve, that technology is only going to get greater.

But while we’ve been writing about these developments for years they still haven’t made it to our phones. This is because everyone is waiting for the perfect replacement before making the jump. That, and commitments to current batteries thanks to manufacturing techniques that cost a lot to change and existing deals for minerals being hard to break.

Things are starting to change though, so we’ve collected all the best battery discoveries that could be with us soon. From over the air charging to super-fast 30-second re-charging, you could be seeing this tech in your gadgets sooner than you think.

Lithium-air breathing batteries
Lithium-air means using oxygen as the oxidiser, rather than a material. The result is batteries that can be a fifth of the price and a fifth as light as lithium-ion, plus they could make phones and cars last five times longer.

The new discovering was made at Dallas University and should help push developments in lithium-air forward. Of course, like a all research, this could still be five to ten years away from becoming a reality.

Bioo plant charger
The Bioo is a plant pot that harnesses the power of photosynthesis to charge your device, be it a tablet or phone. This already exists and can be bought now.

Bioo offers two to three charges per day at 3.5V and 0.5A via a USB port that’s cleverly disguised as a rock. The pot uses organic materials that react with the water and organic matter from the plant’s photosynthesising. This creates a reaction that generates enough power to charge gadgets.

This is just the start, imagine entire forests harnessed in this way. Not only could cities be powered with 100 per cent green energy but there could be yet another reason to protect plants and trees.

Gold nanowire batteries
Great minds over at the University of California Irvine have cracked nanowire batteries that can withstand plenty of recharging. The result could be future batteries that don’t die.

Nanowires, a thousand times thinner than a human hair, pose a great possibility for future batteries. But they’ve always broken down when recharging. This discovery uses gold nanowires in a gel electrolyte to avoid that. In fact these batteries were tested recharging over 200,000 times in three months and showed no degradation at all.

This could be ideal for future electric cars, spacecraft and phones that will never need new batteries.

Magnesium batteries
Scientists have discovered a way to harness magnesium for batteries. This means smaller, more densely packed units that won’t need shielding. In the long run that should mean cheaper batteries, smaller devices and less reliance on lithium-ion. Just don’t expect to see these appear soon as they’re still in the developmental stages.

Solid state lithium-ion
Solid state batteries traditionally offer stability but at the cost of electrolyte transmissions. A paper published by Toyota scientists writes about their tests of a solid state battery which uses sulfide superionic conductors. All this means a superior battery.

The result is a battery that can operate at super capacitor levels to completely charge or discharge in just seven minutes – making it ideal for cars. Since it’s solid state that also means it’s far more stable and safer than current batteries. The solid-state unit should also be able to work in as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius and up to one hundred.

The electrolyte materials still pose challenges so don’t expect to see these in cars soon, but it’s a step in the right direction towards safer, faster charging batteries.

Fuel cell for phones and drones
A new fuel cell has been developed that could mean phones only need to charge once a week and drones stay airbourne for over an hour.

Scientists at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea have, for the first time, combined porous stainless steel with thin-film electrolyte and electrodes of minimal heat capacity. The result is a battery that’s more durable and longer lasting than lithium-ion.

Development for phones, drones and even electric cars is expected to follow the announcement. Since it’s South Korea we may even see it in the next Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone.

Graphene car batteries
Graphene batteries are the future. One company has developed a new battery, called Grabat, that could offer electric cars a driving range of up to 500 miles on a charge.

Graphenano, the company behind the development, says the batteries can be charged to full in just a few minutes. It can charge and discharge 33 times faster than lithium ion. Discharge is also crucial for things like cars that want vast amounts of power in order to pull away quickly.

The capacity of the 2.3V Grabat is huge with around 1000 Wh/kg which compares to lithium ion’s current 180 Wh/kg. The best part of all this is that these batteries should be ready to go by mid way through 2016.

Laser-made microsupercapacitors

Sodium-ion batteries, that use salt, have been used in laptops following the creation of a prototype by the French network of researchers and industrial firms called RS2E.

This battery uses a standard that means it can be placed in laptops and even work in electric cars like the Tesla Model S.

The exact method of build and how it works are being kept secret but the 6.5cm battery can manage 90 watt-hours per kilogram, making it comparable to lithium-ion but with a 2000 cycle lifespan, which should be improved.

Foam batteries

The future of batteries is 3D. Prieto is the first company to crack this with its battery that uses a copper foam substrate.

This means these batteries will not only be safer, thanks to no flammable electrolyte, but they will also offer longer life, faster charging, five times higher density, be cheaper to make and be smaller than current offerings.

Prieto aims to place its batteries into small items first, like wearables. But it says the batteries can be upscaled so we could see them in phones and maybe even cars in the future.

Solid-state batteries

Scientists at MIT, working with Samsung, have discovered solid-state batteries that are better than current lithium-ion efforts. These batteries should be safer, last longer and offer more power.

Current lithium-ion batteries rely on an electrolyte liquid to transport charged particles between the two electrodes. It’s this liquid that can be flammable and which degrades the battery, limiting life.

According to the MIT report these new batteries could be charged for hundreds of thousands of cycles before degrading. They could also provide a 20 to 30 per cent improvement in power density meaning that much more charge for whatever they are powering. And they aren’t flammable so they’re ideal for electric cars.

Nano ‘yolk’ triple capacity and charge in six minutes

Scientists at MIT have created a battery that triples the capacity of current offerings and can charge to full in just 6-minutes. It also does not degrade rapidly over time meaning it should last a long while.

The icing on the cake here is that production is inexpensive and easy to scale, so we could see the batteries appear soon.

Aluminium graphite charges to full in one minute

Scientists at Stanford University have developed an aluminium graphite battery that could replenish to full in a smartphone in just a minute.

Their aluminium graphite batteries are flexible, long lasting and charge ridiculously fast.

The only issue is they hold about half the power of a current lithium battery, but with charging to full in just a minute that’s not too much of a problem.

Alfa battery lasts 14 days and runs on water
A breakthrough in aluminium-air batteries means that in the future we should see the release of the Alfa battery that has 40 times the capacity of lithium-ion.

This battery will be able to recharge by simply being topped up with water, be it salty or normal. It should last a hefty 14 days, according to its creators Fuji Pigment and will be out later this year.

We’d expect to see these batteries appear in cars first – imagine a fuelling station being anywhere with a water tap. Hopefully mobiles will be next in line.

While the aluminium-air battery has a whopping 8,100W/kg capacity and lithium-ion has 120-200Wh/kg it’s still lithium-air that comes out on top with 11,400Wh/kg – although when this will be available isn’t clear.

Flexible battery
A team at Arizona State University have come up with a flexible battery using the ancient Japanese art of Kirigami.

The result means smartwatches could use a flexible strap battery for longer life and smaller build. Looking a little further forward it’ll be ideal for weaving power into smart clothes that monitor our health.

The initial battery prototype is slightly larger than it could be, meaning it’s less flexible too. Despite this the scientists managed to power a Samsung Gear 2 using a flexible band with the batteries inside. This was stretchy enough to move from the wrist to the bicep, and move with flexing, while still powering the smartwatch.

The key here is that this uses current tech but just changes the way it’s developed. For that reason it could be mass-produced today. Get ready for thinner smartwatches plus clothing with brains and power built in, soon.

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