Lithium breakthrough could charge batteries in 10 seconds
It's getting difficult to overstate the importance of batterytechnology. Compact, high-capacity batteries are an essential partof portable electronics already, but improved batteries are likelyto play a key role in the auto industry, and may eventually appearthroughout the electric grid, smoothing over interruptions inrenewable power sources. Unfortunately, battery technology ofteninvolves a series of tradeoffs among factors like capacity,charging time, and usable cycles. Today's issue of Nature reportson a new version of lithium battery technology that may just be agame-changer.
At this point, the authorscalculate, the primary limiting factor is no longer storing lithiumin the battery; instead, getting the lithium in contact with anelectrode is what slows things down. The electrodes also become aproblem because they need to occupy more of the volume of thebattery in order to maintain this rate of charge, which lowers thecharge density. That's a major contributor to the halving of thebattery's capacity mentioned in the previous paragraph.
A more significant problem is thatthese batteries may wind up facing an electric grid that was nevermeant to deal with them. A 1Wh cell phone battery could charge in10 seconds, but would pull a hefty 360W in the process. A batterythat's sufficient to run an electric vehicle could be fully chargedin five minutes—which would make electric vehicles incrediblypractical—but doing so would pull 180kW, which is most certainlynot practical.