Microbatteries could make everything smaller
The University of Illinois have made a breakthrough in making batteries smaller. Its use of 3D-electrodes allows it to build “microbatteries” that are many times smaller than current batteries, or the same size and many times more powerful.
They also say that they can be recharged 1,000 times faster than competing technology.
Smart phones and other gadgets have been getting smaller over the years, but have always been limited by the size of the battery. If these new microbatteries work then it would mean developers could make all these gadgets smaller.
Batteries work by electrons flowing from one type of electrode (an anode) to another type (a cathode). The new technique involves changing the way these electrodes are organized to fit more into a small space.
“The battery electrodes have small intertwined fingers that reach into each other,” project leader Prof William King told the BBC.
“That does a couple of things. It allows us to make the battery have a very high surface area even though the overall battery volume is extremely small.
“And it gets the two halves of the battery very close together so the ions and electrons do not have far to flow.
“Because we’ve reduced the flowing distance of the ions and electrons we can get the energy out much faster.”
“Today we’re making small numbers of these things in a boutique fabrication process, but while that’s reliable and we can repeat it we need to be able to make large numbers of these things over large areas,” said Prof King.
“But in principle our technology is scalable all the way up to electronics and vehicles.
“You could replace your car battery with one of our batteries and it would be 10 times smaller, or 10 times more powerful. With that in mind you could jumpstart a car with the battery in your cell phone.”
It is still early days for the technology as safety matters have to be looked into as the way the battery is so tightly packed means that a short circuit could become a more significant problem.
Researchers in Texas are working on a kind of battery that can be spray-painted onto any surface while engineers at the University of Bedfordshire are exploring the idea of using radio waves as an energy source.
Image courtesy of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.
The graphic illustrates a high power battery technology from the University of Illinois. Ions flow between three-dimensional micro-electrodes in a lithium ion battery.