The battery hasn't advanced in decades. But we're on the verge of a power revolution.
Big technology and car companies are all too aware of the limitations of lithium-ion batteries. While chips and operating systems are becoming more efficient to save power we're still only looking at a day or two of use on a smartphone before having to recharge.
While it may be some time before we get a week's life out of our phones, development is progressing well. We've collected all the best battery discoveries that could be with us soon, from over the air charging to super-fast 30-second re-charging. Hopefully, you'll be seeing this tech in your gadgets soon.
A cobolt-free lithium-ion battery
Researchers at the University of Texas have developed a lithium-ion battery that doesn't use cobalt for its cathode. Instead it switched to a high percentage of nickel (89 per cent) using manganese and aluminium for the other ingredients. "Cobalt is the least abundant and most expensive component in battery cathodes," said Professor Arumugam Manthiram, Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Texas Materials Institute. "And we are completely eliminating it." The team says they have overcome common problems with this solution, ensuring good battery life and an even distribution of ions.
SVOLT unveils cobolt free batteries for EVs
While the emission-reducing properties of electric vehicles are widely accepted, there's still controversy around the batteries, particularly the use of metals like cobolt. SVOLT, based in Changzhou, China, has announced that it has manufactured cobolt-free batteries designed for the EV market. Aside from reducing the rare earth metals, the company is claiming that they have a higher energy density, which could result in ranges of up to 800km (500 miles) for electric cars, while also lengthening the life of the battery and increasing the safety. Exactly where we'll see these batteries we don't know, but the company has confirmed that it's working with a large European manufacturer.
A step closer to silicon anode lithium-ion batteries
Looking to overcome the problem of unstable silicon in lithium-ion batteries, researchers at University of Eastern Finland have developed a method to produce a hybrid anode, using mesoporous silicon microparticles and carbon nanotubes. Ultimately the aim is to replace graphite as the anode in batteries and use silicon, which has ten times the capacity. Using this hybrid material improves the performance of the battery, while the silicon material is sustainably produced from barley husk ash.
Sand battery gives three times more battery life
This alternative type of lithium-ion battery uses silicon to achieve three times better performance than current graphite li-ion batteries. The battery is still lithium-ion like the one found in your smartphone, but it uses silicon instead of graphite in the anodes.
Scientists at the University of California Riverside have been focused on nano silicon for a while, but it's been degrading too quickly and is tough to produce in large quantities. By using sand it can be purified, powdered then ground with salt and magnesium before being heated to remove oxygen resulting in pure silicon. This is porous and three-dimensional which helps in performance and, potentially, the life-span of the batteries. We originally picked up on this research in 2014 and now it's coming to fruition.
Silanano is a battery tech startup that's bringing this technique to market and has seen big investment from companies like Daimler and BMW. The company say that its solution can be dropped into existing lithium-ion battery manufacturing, so it's set for scalable deployment, promising 20 per cent battery performance boost now, or 40 per cent in the near future.