Batteries of Tomorrow: Much Smaller and 2000 Times More Powerful

Researchers at the University of Illinois have recently developed the new lithium-ion microbatteries that ?out-power even the best supercapacitors? known today. To make things even better, these batteries are mentioned as most powerful on the planet while having only a few millimeters in size. According to the university?s press release, if a cellphone was powered by these batteries, it could even be used to jump-start a dead car battery. Sounds like a dream come true? For now, it actually works on a prototype as small as a button.

?This is a whole new way to think about batteries (?) A battery can deliver far more power than anybody ever thought. In recent decades, electronics have gotten small. The thinking parts of computers have gotten small. And the battery has lagged far behind. This is a micro technology that could change all of that. Now the power source is as high-performance as the rest of it,? said William P. King, lead researcher of the project.

Everything around the newly-developed battery started by the structural change in anode and cathode of the regular lithium-ion battery, which has a solid anode made of graphite and a cathode made of a lithium salt. They are in ?one layer? and therefore considered as two-dimensional. Researchers have developed a three-dimensional anode and cathode by building upon a structure of polystyrene (Styrofoam) on a glass substrate. They electrodeposited nickel onto the polystyrene, and nickel-tin (Ni-Se) onto the anode and manganese dioxide (MnO2) onto the cathode. With the process completed, these porous electrodes have an incredible surface area, which in turn allows for more chemical reactions.

The process of developing three-dimensional electrodes

?Now we can think outside of the box,? said James Pikul, a student and first author of the research paper. ?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,? he added. While Intel, AMD and a vast number of ARM licensees are doing their best to produce the most efficient chips for mobile devices, it is just not enough to compensate for the battery technology of today ? as SoCs are just a part of the battery-drain story.

Still, there are a number of different battery technologies and refinements coming up in the near future, and this particular design could very well be ?the one? that solves countless issues with portable electronic devices we have nowadays; moreover, medical devices, lasers, sensors and many other applications could see major leaps in technology.

Of course, researchers will first have to prove that the technology they have developed is scalable to larger batteries, and that there is a way to manufacture them inexpensively. For now, we will have to rely on what we have today ? and think of the times ahead, when we may be able to charge our smartphones within seconds and use them throughout the day without worrying about our device turning into a powerless slab.