A new manufacturing method for lithium-ion batteries could lead to smaller, lighter batteries that can be charged in just seconds. The approach only requires simple changes to the production process of a well-known material.
A prototype battery made using the new technique could be charged in less than 20 seconds – in comparison to six minutes with an untreated sample of the material. Most commercial batteries use a material made up of lithium and cobalt, but lithium iron phosphate does not suffer from overheating – something that has affected laptop and mp3 player batteries in a number of incidents.
The researchers, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have already made a small prototype cell that charges fully in 10 to 20 seconds, compared with six minutes for cells made in the standard way.
The researchers are of the view that this technology will be available commercially within two to three years, because they are not using some new material. They have also nicknamed this technology as the “beltway battery”, after the orbital motorway in Washington DC.
While lithium batteries have high energy densities, they charge and discharge relatively slowly, MIT said. However, MIT about five years ago predicted that the material used in the batteries, lithium iron phosphate, should actually carry charges must faster.
The key, MIT said, was the way lithium ions in the material move through tunnels that can be accessed from the surface of the material. Those ions move quickly if near a tunnel, while others not near tunnels were blocked.