|RAPID RECHARGE: Scientists tweaked a battery material
to permit a super-quick flow of charge-carrying ions in and out.
A new twist on the familiar lithium ion battery
has yielded a type of power-storing material that charges and discharges
at lightning speed. The finding could offer a boost for plug-in hybrid
and electric vehicles and possibly allow cell phone batteries to regain
a full charge in seconds rather than hours.
| In an attempt to pick up the pace, the M.I.T.
researchers coated the lithium iron phosphate material with an ion conductor,
which in this case was a layer of glasslike lithium phosphate. Sure enough,
the charge-carrying ions traveled much faster from their storage medium;
a prototype battery the scientists built completely charged in about 10
to 20 seconds.
The results have impressed some battery experts. "I think this work is a really exciting breakthrough with clear commercial applications," says Yi Cui, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford University.
Two companies have already licensed the technology, according to Kang. Researchers are not sure how much these batteries will cost when they hit the market, but Kang says they should be reasonably priced, given that it should be relatively cheap to produce them.
The study notes that residences cannot draw enough energy from the electrical grid to quickly charge a hybrid car's battery containing the new material, though smaller batteries for gadgets and perhaps power tools should not have that catch. But future roadside plug-in stations (service stations selling electricity instead of gasoline) with greater power pull could do the trick for vehicles, Kang says.
Lithium batteries charge ahead
Researchers demonstrate cells that can power up in seconds.