Scientists at the University of Illinois claim they have created the most powerful microbatteries yet, that are so energy-dense that a mobile phone powered by them could be used to jumpstart a car.
Researchers at the university say these new microbatteries even out-power the best supercapacitors and could be used to power consumer electronics as well as cars.
With so much power, the batteries could enable sensors or radio signals that broadcast 30 times farther, or devices 30 times smaller. The batteries can also charge 1,000 times faster than competing technologies so that phones the size of a credit card could be recharged in less than a second.
The results of the research are published in the April 16, 2013 edition of Nature Communications.
Lead researcher William P. King, Professor of mechanical science and engineering said: “This is a whole new way to think about batteries. A battery can deliver far more power than anybody ever thought. In recent decades, electronics have gotten small. The thinking parts of computers have gotten small [sic]. And the battery has lagged far behind. This is a microtechnology that could change all of that. Now the power source is as high-performance as the rest of it.”
Charge and discharge faster
Unlike other types of energy storage, these batteries have the ability to hold a lot of energy and discharge it quickly. For other types of batteries, you have to choose between this ability to hold energy and the speed with which it can be discharged.
For example, applications that need a lot of power, like broadcasting a radio signal over a long distance, capacitors can release energy very quickly but can only store a small amount. For applications that need a lot of energy, like playing a radio for a long time, fuel cells and batteries can hold a lot of energy but release it or recharge slowly.
“There’s a sacrifice,” said James Pikul, a graduate student and first author of the paper. “If you want high energy you can’t get high power; if you want high power it’s very difficult to get high energy. But for very interesting applications, especially modern applications, you really need both. That’s what our batteries are starting to do. We’re really pushing into an area in the energy storage design space that is not currently available with technologies today.”
The new microbatteries offer both high power delivery and energy storage, and by tweaking the structure a bit, the researchers can tune them over a wide range on the power-versus-energy scale.
What makes them different to other batteries is there structure; instead of a solid cathode and anode poles to the battery as in traditional batteries, Illinois University’s version has porous, three dimensional microstructure to its pole, giving them a huge surface area to charge and discharge
The researchers are now working on integrating their batteries into electronic devices, and exploring how to commercialise the technology at a low cost.