I’ve been saying for many years that if you want to make a lot of money from an investment, find the company that develops the next big breakhrough in battery technology and give them your money. Today’s modern electronic society is dependent on batteries, but a lot of further advances has been stymied by them – they tend to be heavy and bulky and need recharging often. Check your phone or your laptop – most of the weight (especially sans screen) is the battery. Most of the “size” of the device is the battery. Everything else is essentially built around that restriction.
Finally it looks like one battery technology barrier may have been broken down by a team at MIT, and a surprisingly simple breakthrough it is. It had been assumed that the speed lithium ions could move through a lithium battery was greatly limited by some impenetrable factor. It seems that assumption was wrong. The researchers studied more closely how the ions were moving through the material and discovered it was essentially a design flaw that was causing the problem. Imagine you had 3 lanes heading into a tunnel that had only one lane. When engineers design roads, they take these kind of bottlenecks into account and actively set things up so vehicular traffic can merge using a “zipper principle”. Now imagine we didn’t do that, and just suddenly ended two of the lanes with no real way for vehicles to get into the lane that went through the tunnel.
It seems that’s essentially what is happening right now in the battery in your phone or computer, or for that matter, hybrid car. The MIT researchers have discovered a relatively simple and cost effective way to build lithium ion batteries so that they “guide” the ions into these tunnels. The result? Dramatic increases in speed and efficiency. Batteries will be able to be charged in minutes instead of hours. They’ll also be able to discharge faster, providing the kind of bursts of power needed in electric motor vehicles like the Tesla, and since manufacturer’s will no longer have to provide “extra” battery to cover up the inefficiencies, they’ll be smaller and lighter too.
The best news? The new manufacturing process is relatively easy to implement, and scientists believe the new batteries will be on the market in two to three years.