New Battery Technology to Charge Smartphones in 5 Minutes

  • 15th Oct'21
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Can we leave after another 30 minutes? Plug your phone into the charger. Playing games dangerously with 2% battery life remaining. All of these are reflections of the by-product of the incidents caused by "Low Battery." People have made countless jokes and memes on the state of their smartphone battery life as it remained a topic of concern and debate for decades. Even critics and several mobile phone experts have constantly taken a dig at the various smartphones. People have shared an intense love-hate relationship with their mobile phone batteries over the years. However, there is one thing that we cannot ignore about smartphone batteries is their evolution.

The evolution from the bulky and heavy nickel-cadmium cell phone batteries to lithium-ion-based smartphone batteries is one to behold. The technology-driven era has successfully bridged the extensive time it took to charge the mobile phone batteries fully. From ten long hours to completely charge a battery to do the same in just 60-90 minutes in the flagship phones such as Google Pixel 5 and Apple iPhones, we have come a long way to smoothen our love-hate relationship with the mobile phone battery life. And now there is a possibility that can allow us to charge phones in just 5 minutes. Isn't this a fairy tale for all smartphone enthusiasts and hardcore mobile users? Furthermore, for game lovers, this could change the future of gaming too.So, let's take a deeper look at it.


Lithium Ion Battery


Discovery of Speed Limits for Lithium-ion Batteries

Earlier in June, a research team from Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory had shared some exciting details from its research on the charge cycles of lithium-ion-based batteries. The research led by Dr. Akshay Rao has stated that its team has identified the "speed limits" for charging within batteries. He said, "We found that there are different speed limits for lithium-ion batteries, depending on whether it's charging or discharging." Furthermore, based on the research cycles, they look for various methods to maximize the charging cycle potentials.




Explanation of the Charging Cycle

As per the research and reports, when a smartphone is plugged into charging, the speeds it takes to charge the battery entirely depend on how fast the lithium ions can move across the particles of active material present in the device. Likewise, the internal discharge process depends on the pace at which the lithium ions get inserted at the edges. Depending on both, Dr. Akshay Rao further specified that "If we can control these two mechanisms, it would enable lithium-ion batteries to charge much faster."


Lithium Ion Battery


Lithium-ion Batteries and Interferometric Scattering Technique

With the way research was conducted, there were some concerns regarding the use of lithium-ion batteries only. The reason lithium-ion batteries were handpicked for the research is that most of the electronic devices and vehicles today use lithium-ion batteries. Furthermore, what fueled the research was the several limiting factors that were hindering the progress towards a fossil-fuel-free world. Besides, slow charge times coupled with low energy density compared to alternatives like petrol have continually frustrated users. Moreover, they can't just increase the energy transfer without risking an explosion or overheating situation.

Hence, to overcome such issues, the Cambridge researchers had used the interferometric scattering technique. It was a developed technique based upon optical microscopy to maximize the charging cycles of lithium-ion batteries potentially. The methods have enabled the researchers to observe the phase transitions that occurred in the charge-discharge cycle. The following observation has helped them to understand how fast the cycle can take place. It was also a step up from the past inner workings of the lithium-ion batteries that were expensive and time-consuming.

Dr. Christoph Schnederman, a co-author from the Cavendish Laboratory, has said, "This lab-based technique we've developed offers a huge change in technology speed so that we can keep up with the fast-moving inner workings of a battery." Furthermore, the ability to observe phase boundary changes happening in real-time can give us a battery technology that can charge our smartphones in under 5 minutes. As Dr. Christoph Schnederman concludes, "The fact that we can actually see these phase boundaries changing in real time was really surprising. This technique could be an important piece of the puzzle in the development of next-generation batteries."


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About the author:

Sunny Samanta, OpenGrowth Content Team

A lone wolf by definition, a writer by heart, and a lost star with ambitions to light up the dark both inside and around me, sometimes by immersing myself into books or video games or traveling with a backpack to an uncertain destination believing that life is all about the choices we make and we don't.

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