The arrival of smartphones compounded a problem that already confounded cellphone users: Why do cellphone batteries lose power so fast, and why does it take so long to recharge them?
A team of engineers at Northwestern University may be able to answer to both problems.
They say they have created new technology that could allow some rechargeable batteries to hold 10 times more energy and charge 10 times faster than current batteries.
The technology, which could be ready for market in three to five years, comes in the form of an electrode for lithium-ion batteries, like those used in cellphones and other mobile devices such as mp3 players.
"We have found a way to extend a new lithium-ion battery's charge life by 10 times," Northwestern Profession Harold Kung, wrote in a report published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials. "Even after 150 charges, which would be one year or more of operation, the battery is still five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today."
They accomplished this by tweaking the materials used in lithium-ion batteries -- the carbon-based sheets of a material called graphene. Kung's team sandwiched clusters of silicon between the graphene sheets, and punched holes in them. This stabilized the battery and gave lithium ions a "shortcut" to the anode end, allowing for a quicker recharge.
Kung's team thinks they can improve the batteries even more by tinkering with the other end of the battery, the cathode end.