A US startup is brewing something that so many of us have been asking for: a new battery that has twice the capacity of the lithium ion batteries in our devices. The doubling of the capacity comes from the components that make the energy storage safe and durable as well as twice as dense as lithium ion.
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"With two-times the energy density, we can make a battery half the size, but that still lasts the same amount of time, as a lithium ion battery," Qichao Hu Hu, CEO of SolidEnergy, told Rob Matheson at MIT News. "Or we can make a battery the same size as a lithium ion battery, but now it will last twice as long."
Hu is a former researcher at MIT and the founder of SolidEnergy in 2012, whose goal is to make "anode-free" batteries.
The units they are using swap out graphite as the anode with a much thinner lithium/metal foil that holds more ions.
When it is used in a smartphone, the battery would be half of the size of those in an iPhone 6, but it would offer a stronger electrical current. Lithium metal has always been a focal point for scientists, but the roadblocks have posed a huge problem. Previously, lithium metal lasted longer per charge, but had a shorter life-cycle overall.
There were problems involving charging issues, short circuits, and flammable electrolytes.
Hu's team is overcoming these obstacles by developing a lithium metal foil that doesn't heat up and isn't flammable. The foil is extremely thin and is chemically modified so that it doesn't have as many negative reactions.
Still, the most exciting thing is just how imminent they are. The first batteries will be on sale in November, but they will be marketed to drones.
"Several customers are using drones and balloons to provide free internet to the developing world, and to survey for disaster relief," Hu told MIT News. "It's a very exciting and noble application."
There is hope that they will be available for smartphones and wearables in early 2017, although it is unclear if or who the device manufacturers will be.
While most of us are probably looking forward to using our phones for longer, that isn't where the biggest impact will hit.
Hu says that there could be "a huge societal impact" in electric vehicles.
"Industry standard is that electric vehicles need to go at least 200 miles (322 kilometers) on a single charge," Hu explains. "We can make the battery half the size and half the weight, and it will travel the same distance, or we can make it the same size and same weight, and now it will go 400 miles (644 kilometers) on a single charge."
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We will have to wait and see what happens, but we are glad someone is taking the initiative to change how we use our batteries.