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New technology enables rapid battery recharging

19 August 2009 News

Lithium rechargeable batteries available today possess very high energy densities, and are able to store large amounts of charge. The downside of this technology is, however, the relatively slow power rates at which the batteries gain and discharge energy, and also recharge. An example is state-of-the-art electric cars that have a large amount of storage that allow driving at constant speeds for a long time, but do not allow for acceleration due to the lack of power.

These slow power rates were traditionally thought to be caused by the lithium ions and electrons themselves that are slow in terms of transfer rates. However, a discovery approximately five years ago showed that the ions are actually extremely quick and thus cannot be faulted for the slow power rates. The research discovered the need for tunnels or accessing mediums for the ions at the surface of the material, where the lithium ions at the surface in front of tunnel entrances move more quickly compared to those that do not have access to the tunnel.

As a solution, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists have developed a new material that is utilised as a pathway or beltway that allows quick transfer of electrical ions through the battery. This development could lead to smaller and lightweight batteries for electronic and other devices that have the ability to recharge much quicker than current options. This study could also provide solutions for recharging electric cars and future substitutes for current fuel-based vehicles.

The researchers used the material to create beltways that help divert lithium ions to the entrance of the tunnels. This increased the rate of transit for the ions. They created a small battery that could be fully recharged within a maximum of 20 seconds to display the effectiveness of this technology.

The new material also shows excellent reliability and does not degrade as much as other conventional materials when constantly recharged. This technology would benefit all applications that utilise lithium-ion batteries such as mobile phones, digital cameras, watches and handheld game consoles. The researchers believe that this invention could be commercialised within the next two or three years, depending on the industrial collaborators that work with them to realise these ambitions. Currently two companies have already licensed this technology.

For more information contact Patrick Cairns, Frost & Sullivan, +27 (0)21 680 3274, patrick.cairns@frost.com, www.frost.com





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