The investigation of new materials with properties which contribute to technological progress is currently one of the scientific fields with the highest funding. (See “Graphene: Material That Will Change Our World”.) For example, for many years many scientists have been working on significant improvements in batteries: their useful life and the time it takes to charge them. Now, a group of researchers from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, led by Professor Chen Xiaodong from the School of Material Science and Engineering, has just made great progress in this field by developing a new battery with a lifespan of more than 20 years, which recharges by up to 70% in just two minutes.
The Next Generation of Batteries
The new battery has lithium ions, but instead of using traditional graphite for the negative terminal (anode), the scientists have used a new gel material made from titanium dioxide. This material is naturally found in a spherical shape, which could have been problematical in achieving the work objectives; however, the researchers have managed to convert titanium dioxide particles into nanotubes (a thousand times finer than a strand of human hair), a nanostructure which helps to accelerate the chemical reactions, which means the battery charges incredibly fast. Moreover, the material is cheap because it can be found in abundance in the earth. (It is also used, for instance, in sunscreens to absorb damaging ultraviolet rays.)
34 years ago Rachid Yamazi, also a professor at NTU, invented the lithium and graphite anode currently used in the majority of lithium-ion batteries. He states that the work carried out by his colleague Chen Xiaodong and his team represents “the next big leap in battery technology.”
Applications and Benefits: from Electric Cars to Remote Control for Our Generator Sets
The development of this battery with superfast charging will have significant beneficial effects for many industries, some of which have already expressed an interest in the development. Among them will undoubtedly be the automobile industry, in particular manufacturers of electric cars. The limited lifespan of the current batteries and the 3 or 4 hours required to recharge them, which has so far negatively influenced the decision to purchase them, could soon be a thing of the past, as the vehicles could be charged 20 times more quickly (in around 5 minutes) and withstand more than 10,000 charge cycles with the new generation of lithium-ion batteries. It is estimated that these batteries will be on the market within two years.
Another sector which has probably received this news with enthusiasm is that of mobile device manufacturing. As users, we generally demand longer-lasting batteries for our mobiles and tablets, devices which in many cases have also become a work tool. For example, the technicians and engineers at companies which have purchased Inmesol generator sets will be able to monitor and control generator set functionality at a distance using the DSEWebNet application on their smartphones and tablets. (See “Remote Monitoring and Control for Generator Sets with the DSE Mobile App”.) The new lithium-ion batteries with titanium dioxide will also provide them with greater autonomy as they work.