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Recharge A Battery in Seconds

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 42 comments

Could it be possible to recharge batteries in seconds rather than hours? That's a definite "yes" according to MIT engineers after creating an electrical beltway.

Although hooking up a power adapter to a cell phone or iPod -and waiting for what seems like forever for the devices to recharge- is a part of everyday living, wouldn't it be just grand if those devices could recharge on the fly? Instead of thirty minutes or an hour, they'd power up in ten or fifteen seconds? Cutting down battery recharge time -while saving valuable consumer time- would change the lifestyle of every individual on the face of the planet, whether they're juicing up Sony's PlayStation Portable or keeping YouTube on the laptop from blacking out.

For a group of MIT engineers, that's exactly what they set out to do: re-engineer the surface of lithium iron phosphate to ultimately create an efficient, electrical beltway for lithium ions to use.  Because state-of-the art rechargeable batteries have relatively low power rates despite their high energy densities, researchers once thought that lithium ions (and electrons) moved too slowly through the battery material. However, Gerbrand Ceder, the Richard P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, also head of the current project, said that the ions themselves should actually be moving very quickly according to computer calculations. Thus, he concluded that something else was causing the slowdown.

Further study showed that the lithium ions indeed moved extremely fast into the battery material, but only by way of surface tunnels if set directly in the path of the lithium ions; those that did not enter surface tunnels did not pass into the material. The new surface created by Ceder and Byoungwoo Kang, a graduate student, allows the lithium ions to move across the material as if on the beltway of a major city, getting off at the next exit -a surface tunnel- rather than halting altogether.

By utilizing this newly re-engineered material, Ceder and Kang created a small battery that could be fully recharged or discharged in 10 to 20 seconds- a fraction of the time it takes to recharge a battery cell made from the original, unprocessed material. As an additional benefit, the new material degrades far less than current rechargeable batteries when repeatedly charged and recharged. And because less material is needed for the same end result, consumers would benefit from a lighter, smaller battery.

"The ability to charge and discharge batteries in a matter of seconds rather than hours may open up new technological applications and induce lifestyle changes," Ceder and Kang conclude. Apparently, the re-engineered material can also be applied to electric car batteries although they would be limited to the amount of power available on the consumer's electric grid.

Still, faster recharge times would make the world a better place. Unfortunately, the re-engineered rechargeable batteries won't see the light of day -or at least the hands of consumers- for another two or three years.

Discuss
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  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , March 13, 2009 10:18 AM
    Oh joy I will be waiting for that day :D 
  • -4 Hide
    hillarymakesmecry , March 13, 2009 10:55 AM
    This is fantastic news. Then we could charge up an electric car at high power high voltage stations in like 5 minutes instead of 9 hours. Gasoline will be history. Thanks Venezula and Iran, your domination of the worlds most valuable resource is comming to an end. We won't really need it as much anymore.
  • -1 Hide
    avi85 , March 13, 2009 11:03 AM
    very cool...
  • -2 Hide
    Niva , March 13, 2009 11:04 AM
    Wow, that's good research right there... which should be patented!
  • 2 Hide
    jacobdrj , March 13, 2009 11:16 AM
    Gasoline will never be 'history', because it is a phenominal distributed high energy controllable source of energy (stored solar power). However, it's mainstream consumer consumption should decrease, assuming we have a better way of harnesing solar energy through either wind, water, or direct solar power. Otherwise, we will just be exchanging automotive gas consumption with point source generator crude consumption...
  • 5 Hide
    pbrigido , March 13, 2009 11:25 AM
    Not to be a downer, but over the years I have heard lots of promises regarding new battery technology. Sadly, none of it has lived up to its hype. Don't get me wrong, I would love to have a battery get a full charge that quickly, I just wouldn't get your hopes up quite yet.
  • 2 Hide
    jp182 , March 13, 2009 12:07 PM
    thats not to say that battery tech hasnt improved over the years. Batteries are last much longer than they used to; we just keep finding faster ways to burn that energy.
  • 0 Hide
    StupidRabbit , March 13, 2009 12:11 PM
    This would be awesome.. i would just have to find a socket and plug my laptop in for 30 seconds and voila. Ofcourse i would have to wait a couple of years for it to get mainstream.. unless lenovo decides to start making them tomorrow.
  • 0 Hide
    jacobdrj , March 13, 2009 12:16 PM
    Yeah, I was wondering why it took THG so long to post this. But better late and accurate than early and wrong.
  • 3 Hide
    magicandy , March 13, 2009 12:18 PM
    Hey look another MIT breakthrough battery tech we won't see for another 10 years because the large battery producing corporations are making enough money keeping mainstream tech at a snail's pace. Stretch it out, it'll last longer. *eyeroll*

    Just think of how advanced we could be if we used a resource-based economy rather than crippling progress without our money-based economy. Things like this would be incorporated into every day life much more quickly, rather than waiting years and years for a company to decide that it has made enough money stalling the old tech. Lose the money, change the incentive for humanity.
  • 1 Hide
    Grims , March 13, 2009 12:24 PM
    jp182thats not to say that battery tech hasnt improved over the years. Batteries are last much longer than they used to; we just keep finding faster ways to burn that energy.



    It has gotten somewhat better, but it's not advancing at the same rate in efficiency as PCS. All theses new 5-6 hour battery netbooks are the result of severely under powered components, or the effect of just putting a bigger and bigger battery on. Take HPs 12 hour battery laptop they keep boasting...has anyone actually seen that battery? It's a 12 cell mammoth.
  • 0 Hide
    apoq , March 13, 2009 12:27 PM
    Yep, i fear the the Man does not want us to have real breakthroughs in battery technology. I sure hope this one sees the light of day but we've been reading about similar technologies for ages and hardly any of them has had any impact in everyday usage of electronics.
  • 0 Hide
    jacobdrj , March 13, 2009 12:32 PM
    Well, sometimes the technology is good, but the cost associated with it is terrible. They were saying they had hypercapacitive batteries a little while ago. But I have a feeling they would cost in the multi-thousand dollar range, for even small ones. There are very few applications for 24 hour batteries that cost as much as a car.
    This might be different because it uses standard materials, and just changes the manufacturing process.
  • 3 Hide
    mavroxur , March 13, 2009 12:33 PM
    Does anyone else not see the fundamental flaw with this? Since energy cannot be created nor destroyed, to accomplish the same amount of work that a 100mA charge for 2 hours would do, you would have to charge at a rate of 12A for 1 minute to get the same effect. 10 Seconds? Do the math. I dont know of a small dainty wall adapter that can chug out 12A, let alone a small charging jack on a cell phone that could take several amps.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , March 13, 2009 12:35 PM
    There already are two competing battery technologies that promises even shorter recharge time and they're already on the market.

    Altairnano's lithium-titanate battery potentially offers 250 times faster recharge. Current models can be fully recharged in less than 10 minutes.

    A123systems' lithium iron phosphate battery potentially offers 100 times faster recharge with current test models being recharged to 80% capacity in 5 minutes, and full capacity in 20 minutes.
  • 1 Hide
    tenor77 , March 13, 2009 12:38 PM
    Good possibilities. Of course there's a lot of ignorance when it comes to Lithium Ions from your general consumer. They tend to kill the batteries capacity by treating it like a NiMh.

    "You mean I'm not supposed to drain it down all the way?"
    No, no you're not.
  • 0 Hide
    jacobdrj , March 13, 2009 12:51 PM
    mavroxurDoes anyone else not see the fundamental flaw with this? Since energy cannot be created nor destroyed, to accomplish the same amount of work that a 100mA charge for 2 hours would do, you would have to charge at a rate of 12A for 1 minute to get the same effect. 10 Seconds? Do the math. I dont know of a small dainty wall adapter that can chug out 12A, let alone a small charging jack on a cell phone that could take several amps.

    Yes, but you could at least up it to standard wall amp-draw instead of the measly .5-2.5 amp draw for most AC-DC converters, which never have to be higher, because the batteries couldn't utilize that juice anyways.
  • 2 Hide
    mavroxur , March 13, 2009 1:27 PM
    jacobdrjYes, but you could at least up it to standard wall amp-draw instead of the measly .5-2.5 amp draw for most AC-DC converters, which never have to be higher, because the batteries couldn't utilize that juice anyways.


    Ok, so lets "up it to standard wall amp-draw" and now you're charging an iPod with....15 amps x 125 volts = 1875 watts. Yay! Now let's imagine what an iPod with a charging jack that could handle that...with charging circuiry to handle that current...Congrats your iPod is the size of a shoebox. Let's take it a step further....charging a notebook battery with 18v at 3a for an hour and a half....to get the same columbs charge you would need 18v at 16,200A for 10 seconds. Gets ugly fast, doesnt it? Hooray for physics. 10 seconds on really small batteries is probable.
  • 0 Hide
    grieve , March 13, 2009 1:39 PM
    jacobdrjGasoline will never be 'history', because it is a phenominal distributed high energy controllable source of energy (stored solar power). However, it's mainstream consumer consumption should decrease, assuming we have a better way of harnesing solar energy through either wind, water, or direct solar power. Otherwise, we will just be exchanging automotive gas consumption with point source generator crude consumption...

    Although what you say is true...

    Never say never, one day, god knows when (50 years?)... Gasoline will be gone.
  • 0 Hide
    jacobdrj , March 13, 2009 1:49 PM
    And that is what we are talking about, small batteries. Because you are going AC/DC you could step down the voltage to whatever is reasonable for a charge. Otherwise, you lights would dim every time you plugged something in to charge. Obveously, for a car, you would still need to trickle charge at home, but you could have power station nodes for 'quick fillups'.
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