Despite many theoretical improvement, lithium ion batteries remain a very slowly progressing technology. Moore’s Law keeps on helping our gadgets better at conserving batteries, but the batteries themselves aren’t keeping pace with Moore’s Law when it comes to increasing capacity.
But a new innovation by a team of forgetful researchers might change all that: they’ve figured out how to quadruple a li-ion battery’s lifespan.
Dr. Wang Changan of Tsinghua University and Dr. Li Ju of MIT have been working on improving lithium-ion battery capacity for years. Right now, batteries end up butting up against a literal wall when it comes to improving their performance, due to the way lithium compounds build up on graphite electrodes over time. Aluminum would be a better compound for such electrodes, but aluminum expands and contracts during charging and discharging, making batteries – well – more volatile.
Dr. Changan and Dr. Ju have been trying to figure out a way to stop this expanding and contracting, so they’ve been building batteries by first soaking aluminum nanoparticles in a sulfuric acid and titanium oxysuplphate mix, which dissolves the aluminum oxide coating on the nanoparticles and replaces it with titanium oxide. They had a limited amount of luck, but in a recent experiment, the two doctors forgot to take the nanoparticles out of the soak, which left them in the sulfuric acidbath for several hours longer than intended.
The result? Geek explains:
It turns out they have potentially solved the problem of using aluminum for the anodes in the battery. The extra long soak meant the anodes did not expand and contract, in fact they created a battery that over 500 charge/discharge cycles retained up to four-times the capacity of the equivalent graphite anode batteries. These batteries last considerably longer in terms of usable lifespan and, according to MIT, can hold up to three-times the energy.
Pretty incredible, if this pans out, and it’s not hard to see what this advance could mean for Apple products like the iPhone, the iPad, or the Apple Watch: true all-day battery lifes. Let’s hope this is a technology that can be mass-manufactured. We could have Apple Watches that go a week without a charge in the next few years.