While smartphones, smarthomes and even smart wearables are growing ever more advanced, they’re still limited by power. The battery hasn’t advanced in decades. But we’re on the verge of a power revolution. Big technology companies, and now car companies that are making electric vehicles, are all too aware of the limitations of current lithium-ion batteries. While chips and operating systems are becoming more efficient to save power we’re still only look at a day or two of use on a smartphone before having to recharge. That’s why universities are getting involved. We’ve seen a plethora of battery discoveries coming out of universities all over the world. Tech companies and car manufacturers are pumping money into battery development. And with races like Formula E adding pressure to improve, that technology is only going to get greater.
But while we’ve been writing about these developments for years there’s still nothing in our phones. This is because everyone is waiting for the perfect replacement before making the jump. That and commitments to current batteries thanks to manufacturing technique that cost a lot to change and existing deals for minerals being hard to break.
Our multidisciplinary team of world-renowned researchers are working in overdrive to develop advanced energy storage technologies to aid the growth of the battery manufacturing industry, transition the automotive fleet to plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, and enable greater use of renewable energy. We are building upon our historical leadership in battery research to create a broad research, development and demonstration program centered on advanced energy storage materials and systems for both mobile and stationary applications.
We develop more robust, safer and higher-energy density lithium-ion batteries, while using our fundamental science capabilities to develop storage materials that dramatically increase storage capacity and power densities. Our all-encompassing battery research program spans the continuum from basic materials research and diagnostics to scale-up processes and ultimate deployment by industry.
Our researchers are working on new types of batteries that don’t need lithium like your smartphone battery. These new batteries will use sodium, one of the most common materials on the planet rather than rare lithium – and they’ll be up to seven times more efficient than conventional batteries.
Research into sodium-ion batteries has been going on since the eighties in an attempt to find a cheaper alternative to lithium. By using salt, the sixth most common element on the planet, batteries can be made for cheaper and we won’t need to worry about lithium running out. With battery-powered cars on the increase it’s only a matter of time before lithium becomes too rare and expensive.
Commercialising the batteries is expected to begin for smartphones, cars and more in the next five to 10 years.
Sodium-ion batteries, that use salt, have been used in laptops following the creation of a prototype by the French network of researchers and industrial firms called RS2E.
This battery uses a standard that means it can be placed in laptops and even work in electric cars like the Tesla Model S.
The exact method on build and how it works are being kept secret but the 6.5cm battery can manage 90 watt-hours per kilogram, making it comparable to lithium-ion but with a 2000 cycle lifespan, which should be improved.