New teeny-tiny battery charges in less than a second

A new lithium-ion micro-battery is just millimetres in size, can jump-start a car battery and recharges in less than a second.

Graphic illustrating the redesigned cathode and anode.
(Credit: Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology)

A new lithium-ion micro-battery is just millimetres in size, can jump-start a car battery and recharges in less than a second.

One of the biggest bugbears of smartphones is just how much juice they drain — and how long they take to recharge. Batteries are also the reason that many devices can't be smaller; after all, they have to fit somewhere (although, given the burgeoning phablet market, that's not exactly a huge problem).

A team of researchers, led by William P King at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign has developed a new type of lithium-ion battery that is just a fraction of the size of the batteries we use now — and which can out-power the best supercapacitors.

They have done this by redesigning the cathode and anode — these are the positive (cathode) and negative (anode) poles of the battery. In a traditional battery, these poles are solid. In the University of Illinois' battery, they've redesigned these poles so that they're porous, three-dimensional microstructures.

Simply changing the structure this way gives the battery a power density up to 7.4 mW cm−2 μm−1 — which is equal to or greater than that of supercapacitors, and 2000 times higher than that of other micro-batteries. It also means that the battery can charge up to 1000 times faster than competing technologies.

They're not quite ready for the market just yet, though. At such a tiny size, they will be difficult to integrate with current devices — and manufacturing cost is a little on the high side. But it does mean interesting things for the future.

"Now we can think outside of the box. It's a new enabling technology. It's not a progressive improvement over previous technologies; it breaks the normal paradigms of energy sources. It's allowing us to do different, new things," said James Pikul, graduate student and first author of the paper.

The full paper, "High-power lithium-ion micro-batteries from interdigitated three-dimensional bicontinuous nanoporous electrodes", is available in Nature Communications.


About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.


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