How It Works

Battery innovation charges ahead

Most portable electronics, from your iPhone to your MacBook, as well as car batteries, electrical tools, and even medical equipment, are using lithium-ion batteries. Their low maintenance and high density mean that they are perfect for everyday use, but technology has some drawbacks and the immature technology is still evolving.

Where your first Nokia 3310 had a battery life of several days, if not weeks, your modern smartphone has a frustratingly limited the time between charges. And have you ever noticed after a few months of enjoying your new phone the battery seems to run out faster than when you’d sent your first few Snapchats? They don’t age well either. This type is known as a ‘liquid state’ battery, and they have other problems, including sensitivity to temperature changes have led to fires and explosions.

Scientists have started to look towards solid-state batteries to overcome the problems faced, including researchers from the Center for Energy and Environmental Science in the Department of Materials Chemistry of Shinshu University in Japan. The research group have developed a new way to make solid-state batteries more efficient. The trick is to grow a layer of cube-shaped crystals to connect the electrodes of the battery. Nobuyuki Zettsu, the first author on the paper, has commented in a press release: “Despite the expected advantages of all-solid-state batteries, their power characteristic and energy densities must be improved to allow their application in such technologies as long-range electric vehicles”.

The scientists on the project have grown garnet-type oxide solid electrolyte crystals in molten lithium ion. The predictable cube-shaped crystals grow in such a way that each crystal touches it’s neighbouring crystal, in a uniform pattern that means researchers can control the exact thickness and connection area of the layer. The research hopes this research will contribute to the production of high energy and power batteries, and the team plan to produce a prototype battery cell for electric vehicles and wearable technology by 2022.

For more science and technology articles, pick up the latest copy of How It Works from all good retailers or from our website now. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, subscribe today!

Other articles you may like:

The Banana Phone is Back!

Splash Spray: Can it really waterproof your mobile phone?  

Smartphone insomnia: Why checking your phone before bed spoils your sleep