A new battery technology known as lithium metal could double the battery life of smartphones by as early as 2017.
The “lithium metal” technology is an engineering breakthrough that allows a battery to hold twice as many ions – the particles that store a battery’s charge – as lithium-ion products.
It could mean manufacturers being able to shrink the batteries inside phones and maintain their capacity, or use batteries of the same size that can keep a phone running for twice as long.
New Battery Technology
In typical lithium-ion batteries, ions move from a negatively-charged graphite cathode to a positively-charged anode through a solution known as an electrolyte, sending electrons that were attached to the ions through a circuit that powers a device such as a phone.
While graphite has proved the best and most reliable substance for a cathode to date, it can only hold so many ions. Researchers have long aimed to replace this with a lithium-metal foil, which can hold more ions, but the foil has typically reacted badly with the electrolyte, causing it to overheat, potentially igniting, and rapidly lose capacity.
Batteries today typically use the anode material graphite. To double the battery capacity, SolidEnergy swaps this with a thin, high-energy lithium-metal foil that can hold more ions.A few chemical modifications also allows their product to be safer and because it requires existing lithium ion manufacturing equipment to produce, the product is also scalable.
SolidEnergy Systems has developed a hybrid electrolyte solution which does not react badly with the lithium-metal foil, making it as safe and reliable as an everyday battery.
This is “anode-free” lithium metal battery that is twice as energy-dense, making it perfect for most consumer electronics such as smartphones, wearables and even electrics cars or drones.
SolidEnergy Systems has already demonstrated the tech working in a prototype half the size of an iPhone 6 battery, and plans to bring the batteries to smartphones and wearables in early 2017. The company is also targeting use for electric cars by 2018.
References: MIT News