Battery charge and discharge happens through ions moving between two poles, anodes and cathodes, thus creating electricity. And the speed by which these ions move determines charge and discharge rates. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), using lithium ion batteries, have discovered that by coating particles of lithium iron phosphate in a glassy material called lithium pyrophosphate, one can create a somewhat perfect-sized tunnel for the ions to blast through, creating super-fast charge rates (let’s hope the tunnels are one-way street speedways). So, instead of waiting for hours for a recharge we’re talking seconds for example for AA batteries.
Sounds great for any appliance I can think of, from mobile phones to laptops and especially to car batteries, whose long charge rates are one of the obstacles for electric cars becoming an instant hit. As far as car batteries are concerned though there’s a hitch. Pulling a high charge in a very short period of time requires a large electricity amount; a mobile phone battery being charged in 10 seconds for example could pull up to 360 watts. Take the batteries for average-sized electric vehicle being recharged in five minutes, and you might be talking 180 kW – which means you can forget about your power point at home. Recharging these batteries would need a commercial appliance, such as the electrical equivalent to a petrol station. And while that might speed up the acceptance of electric cars, one would have to ask: at what cost (economically and environmentally)?
When could the new technology be commercially available? MIT researchers can see it hitting our streets and shopping malls in 2-3 years.
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