Fast Charging Batteries on Horizon

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 @ 03:10 PM gHale

Ultra-fast charging batteries are now in development that can recharge up to 70 percent in only two minutes.

The new generation batteries also have a lifespan of over 20 years, more than 10 times compared to existing lithium-ion batteries.

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This breakthrough has a wide-ranging impact on all industries, especially for electric vehicles, where consumers are put off by the long recharge times and its limited battery life, said researchers at Nanyang Technology University (NTU).

With NTU’s new technology, drivers of electric vehicles could save tens of thousands on battery replacement costs and can recharge their cars in just a matter of minutes.

Commonly used in mobile phones, tablets, and in electric vehicles, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries usually last about 500 recharge cycles. This is equivalent to two to three years of typical use, with each cycle taking about two hours for the battery to fully charge.

In the new NTU-developed battery, the traditional graphite used for the anode (negative pole) in lithium-ion batteries ends up replaced with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide.

Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap and safe material found in soil. It commonly sees use as a food additive or in sunscreen lotions to absorb harmful ultraviolet rays.

Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is one thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging.

The new titanium dioxide gel is the brainchild of Associate Professor Chen Xiaodong from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering.

Chen and his team are now applying for a Proof-of-Concept grant to build a large-scale battery prototype. With the help of NTUitive, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NTU created to support NTU start-ups, the patented technology has already attracted interest from industry.

The technology is currently undergoing licensing by a company for eventual production. Chen expects the new generation of fast-charging batteries will hit the market in the next two years. It also has the potential to be a key solution in overcoming longstanding power issues related to electro-mobility.

“Electric cars will be able to increase their range dramatically, with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars,” Chen said.

“Equally important, we can now drastically cut down the toxic waste generated by disposed batteries, since our batteries last ten times longer than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries.”

The 10,000-cycle life of the new battery also means drivers of electric vehicles would save on the cost of battery replacements, which could cost over $5,000 each.

The global market of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries could end up reaching $23.4 billion in 2016, according to research firm, Frost & Sullivan.

Lithium-ion batteries usually use additives to bind the electrodes to the anode, which affects the speed in which electrons and ions can transfer in and out of the batteries.

However, Chen’s new cross-linked titanium dioxide nanotube-based electrodes eliminates the need for these additives and can pack more energy into the same amount of space.

Manufacturing this new nanotube gel is very easy. Titanium dioxide and sodium hydroxide mix together and stir under a certain temperature so battery manufacturers will find it easy to integrate the new gel into their current production processes.

NTU professor Rachid Yazami, the co-inventor of the lithium-graphite anode 30 years ago used in today’s lithium-ion batteries, said Chen’s invention is the next big leap in battery technology.

“While the cost of lithium-ion batteries has been significantly reduced and its performance improved since Sony commercialized it in 1991, the market is fast expanding toward new applications in electric mobility and energy storage,” said Yazami, who is not involved in Chen’s research project.

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