The University of Cambridge team discovered the method using a low-cost imaging technique.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a simple and low-cost lab-based technique that makes it possible for them to view the lithium ions moving in smartphone batteries in real time.
This allowed the researchers see the movement within the lithium-ion batteries as they were charging.
As a result, they could see how the lithium ions moved as the smartphone batteries were charging as well as how they were discharging. This was a first for researchers. The affordable method also made it possible for the researchers to identify the processes within that cause charging speeds to be limited. Now that these have been identified, if they can be addressed, it would make it possible for phones, laptops, tablets and other rechargeable devices to be returned to a full charge in as little as five minutes.
In their paper published in the Nature journal, the researchers said their technique makes it possible to improve the materials currently used for these power sources. Furthermore, this method can also be applied to accelerating the development to the next generation of batteries. This has been labeled as one of the greatest technological barriers that must be overcome in order for the world to transition away from the use of fossil fuels.
While lithium-ion smartphone batteries are beneficial they also come with substantial drawbacks.
Among the advantages of using lithium-ion include the high energy densities and long lifespans when compared to other form of rechargeable battery and power storage. That said, they also come with a risk of overheating or even exploding. Moreover, the cost to produce them is quite high. Furthermore, the energy density – as high as it may be – is nowhere near that of gasoline or diesel. As a result, this presents some substantial challenges in using them in electric cars and for solar power grid-scale storage.
“A better battery is one that can store a lot more energy or one that can charge much faster—ideally both,” said study co-author Dr. Christoph Schnedermann of Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge when discussing the potential for rapid charging device and smartphone batteries. “But to make better batteries out of new materials, and to improve the batteries we’re already using, we need to understand what’s going on inside them.”