A brand new type of battery - named “lithium metal” - is about to go into commercial production. The innovative cells can hold twice the power, meaning your smartphone’s battery life could effectively be doubled.
The science sounds simple - pack the same energy as a standard lithium-ion cell in a space that’s half the size - but to do so has taken so much more.
Okay then - how does it work?
Currently, lithium-ion batteries work by storing positive electrons on the graphite anode surface. Researchers have been working for years on creating a battery that works with just lithium metal. Unfortunately, the problem was that severed the battery’s effectiveness and increased resistance. This lead to short-circuiting batteries that would heat up and destroy themselves.
But now, MIT spin-off SolidEnergy have successfully managed to fix the problem. CEO Qichao HU created a thin lithium metal anode that reduced the size of the battery. One problem - it could only work when heated up to 175 degrees Fahrenheit… Not useful!
However, he and the team are back after developing a solid electrolyte coating for the lithium metal foil that functions at room temperature. Hu also looked at the electrolyte liquid used in the battery and reformulated it - leading to less resistance when charging and removing the overheating problem altogether.
What does all of this mean? Well in the words of Hu: “we can make a battery the same size as a lithium ion battery, but now it will last twice as long.”
Cool! When can I get my hands on one? My Smartphone has a pants battery life.
Well, unlike many of our stories on here that talk about innovation that will become reality in 5-10 years, these new batteries could come as soon as next year!
Another battery company named A123 systems went bankrupt, which was the perfect acquisition for SolidEnergy to grab themselves a real-world manufacturing plant.
"By starting with this real-world manufacturing perspective and building real-world batteries, we were able to understand what materials worked in those processes, and then work backwards to design new materials," says Hu.
In terms of a timeline, the company is planning to launch a brand new range of drone batteries in November 2016, followed by taking on smartphones and other electronics in 2017.
After that, they plan to take a whack at making petrol-powered cars obsolete, as their batteries could make a Tesla go twice as far - meaning the Model S will hit that magical number of 500+ miles.
But, we’ve been burnt before.
There have been many battery innovations in the past, which have resulted in nothing more than a dry fart of excitement without the relief of actually pooping (sorry, it’s late and that was the only metaphor I could think of).
All we can do is wait and see.