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MIT discovery could “supercharge” lithium ion batteries

One of the big problems with existing battery technologies is the charge and discharge rate. A battery that powers a device for several hours can take nearly the same amount of time to recharge, making it difficult to develop “continuous use” devices. There has been a lot of research into new technologies like super-capacitors, but production use of these approaches is years if not decades in the future. Thanks to the folks at MIT, however, we may soon have a simple alternative: quick-charge (and discharge) Lithium Ion batteries.

By altering the battery medium from lithium cobalt to lithium iron oxide and producing that oxide in a particular way, a test battery that normally took six minutes to charge could be charged in 20 seconds. That suggests that a normal one hour charge could be completed in something less than five minutes, or an overnight charge of an electric car power pack might be reduced to something like half an hour.

The interesting thing with this is that the change is not a completely new technology, but rather “simply” a different manufacturing method. It uses cheaper and safer materials than is currently the norm, and apparently lithium iron oxide has less capacity loss over time than the normal lithium cobalt batteries. Switching over to the new material and manufacturing method could be done in as little as two or three years.

I’m looking forward to seeing more “eureka” moments like this regarding power storage methods in the next decade or two. I could be sorely disappointed, but I’m hopeful.

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