Wearable Tech World Feature Article
October 14, 2014

Batteries That Can Charge 70 Percent in Two Minutes and Last for 20 Years

We can look at and compare all the differences that various electronic devices offer, but when you look under the hood, the one thing that they all have in common is a battery. These devices are designed to stay small in profile but pack more and more punch. The thing is, in most cases, the battery is the backbone of these devices - and the more you pack into a device, the more power you need - so it’s easy to see how quickly draining the battery is possible.

Users end up having to re-charge the device more often - which usually takes at least an hour, if not longer. There are external batteries and chargers that you can use with your smartphones and tablets, but we are beginning to see more wearable devices such as smartwatches hit the market that cannot take advantage of these chargers. On a larger scale, electric cars need a charging station that will require several hours before the vehicle can be driven again. What we need is a battery that can last longer and charge significantly faster than what is on the market now.

There is something else that we can add to the mix. In a lot of instances, smartphones and tablets are made so that the battery cannot be removed. This means that once the maximum re-charge cycle has been reached, the battery will never be able to hold a full charge and will discharge faster than normal. When you reach this level, which is usually after about a year of constant use, your only real option is to purchase a new device.

This may soon be something that no one will have to worry about. Scientists at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are looking to address that issue. They have created a lithium ion battery that will not only get up to a 70 percent charge in just 2 minutes, but it can also ostensibly last up to 20 years. This is possible because the new battery technology will have a 10,000 cycle lifespan, which means that it can be re-charged about 10,000 times before it reaches its maximum cycle.

The standard Lithium ion batteries that are currently being used have graphite anodes (an anode is an electrode through which positive electric charge flows into a polarized electrical device, the flow of charge is an electric current), the scientists at NTU are using a titanium dioxide nanotubes gel which they developed.

The gel is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. The gel also dramatically speeds up the chemical reaction that takes place in the battery, which means that it can be charged a lot faster than graphite. It is the fact that the scientists were able to reform the titanium dioxide, which is normally spherical in shape, into tiny nanotubes. Another difference is that unlike in typical lithium ion batteries, additives are not needed to bind the electrodes to the anode, which allows reactions to take place faster.

A recent Science Daily report concerning this research stated, "This next generation of lithium ion batteries will enable electric vehicles to charge 20 times faster than the current technology. With it, electric vehicles will also be able to do away with frequent battery replacements. The new battery will be able to endure more than 10,000 charging cycles, 20 times more than the current 500 cycles of today's batteries." As you can see, this type of technology has value in many diverse fields.

NTU associate professor Chen Xiaodong, is the inventor of the titanium dioxide gel. He said, "With our nanotechnology, electric cars would be able to increase their range dramatically with just 5 minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars."

I see several questions that can arise from this type of technology. How will mobile device manufacturers and service providers feel about the fact that people could hold on to their current devices for 10 years instead of replacing a device after two years when the battery will not charge again? Will this technology get caught up in patent wars? The impact of such a battery that provides longevity along with a rapid charge will be felt from the smallest smartphone or smartwatch to the largest electric vehicle. That is quite an impressive range. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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