An international team of Scientists, led by Stanford University’s Hongjie Dai, have accidentally discovered a solution for the ongoing problem of creating an ultrafast rechargeable battery that’s also cheap and long-lasting.
Researchers have always had their gaze focused on aluminum as an ideal material for creating batteries: it’s cheap, flexible and has a high charge-storage capacity. Until now, attempts at producing a viable aluminum battery have failed. The main difficulty has been to find a suitable material for the potential battery’s cathode (positive-charged end). However, the Stanford team stumbled upon a simple solution: use graphite in the cathode. When they did, alongside an aluminum anode and an ionic liquid electrolyte, it all worked.
This new type of battery would have several advantages over alkaline batteries (which are toxic to the environment) and lithium-ion batteries (which are highly combustible and flammable.) In addition, the new graphite/aluminum battery proved to be fast charging and very durable. Whereas current phones take hours to fill with power, the new prototype has a charge time of one minute flat. It also has a life of 7,500 charge-discharge cycles. At a rate of one charge per day, that’s a life of over 20 years!
For the meantime we will have to make do with our less powerful batteries – the team still wants to improve their prototype’s voltage output. But, “Otherwise, our battery has everything else you’d dream that a battery should have: inexpensive electrodes, good safety, high-speed charging, flexibility, and long cycle life. I see this as a new battery in its early day,” said Dai.