New battery materials developed by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Vorbeck Materials Corp. of Jessup, Md., could enable power tools and other devices that use lithium-ion battery technology to recharge in minutes rather than hours. In addition, research at Georgia Tech is working towards increasing the capacity of graphene based batteries using through the use of silicon anodes instead of carbon for new lithium-ion battery technology.
In collaboration with Vorbeck and researcher Ilhan Aksay at Princeton University, PNNL has demonstrated that small quantities of graphene – an ultra-thin sheet of carbon atoms – can dramatically improve the power and cycling stability of lithium-ion batteries, while maintaining high energy storage capacity. Combined with Georgia Tech’s work on self-assembling nanotech, the pioneering work could lead to the development of graphene based batteries that have two major advantages. 1) They can store larger amounts of energy in the same size package, and 2) They can recharge much more quickly.
The way it works is simple – at least in theory. The use of graphene based batteries is a completely new direction is getting battery cells to charge more quickly. Lithium-ion batteries work by transferring lithium ions between a cathode and an anode using a liquid electrolyte. That takes a certain amount of time, especially during the recharging phase. But, improving the cathodes by coating them with graphene can allow more ions to transfer, which both increases the speed of transfer. Then, the use of nanotech to better produce a reusable silicon-based anodes enhances the battery’s overall storage capabilities.
Graphene is made of carbon sheets that are only one atom thick. It is highly conductive and can be used for semiconductors or with electronic displays, but this new research also means that it may make that 18V cordless drill battery recharge in just a few minutes instead of an hour. It could also potentially run for five times as long.
Now THAT would be a massive improvement.
Researchers are so confident in the capabilities of graphene as a conductive enhancement that they claim graphene based cell phone batteries, which currently take between one and five hours to fully recharge, would have their time reduced to under 10 minutes.As for the nanotech, it’s still an expensive process, but with further research and economy of scale, it could make our cordless tools run longer, or at the very least pack a lot more power into a smaller package.
Imagine the equivalent power of a 36V tool in a 12V or 18V package. It’s got my imagination soaring!