A group of Korean scientists, working at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), have developed a fast-charge lithium-ion battery that can be recharged 30 to 120 times faster than conventional li-ion batteries. The team believes it can build a battery pack for electric vehicles that can be fully charged inless than a minute.
One of the main issues with rechargeable batteries is that they take longer to recharge as their physical volume grows. When you recharge a battery, it charges from the outside in — so the fatter the battery, the longer it takes. You can somewhat avoid this by breaking larger batteries into smaller individual cells, but that technique only gets you so far.
The Korean method takes the cathode material — standard lithium manganese oxide (LMO) in this case — and soaks it in a solution containing graphite. Then, by carbonizing the graphite-soaked LMO, the graphite turns into a dense network of conductive traces that run throughout the cathode. This new cathode is then packaged normally, with an electrolyte and graphite anode, to create the fast-charging li-ion battery. Other factors, such as the battery’s energy density and cycle life seem to remain unchanged.
These networks of carbonized graphite effectively act like blood vessels, allowing every part of the battery to recharge at the same time — thus speeding up recharge by 30 to 120 times.
Now, for all intents and purposes, this is a standard lithium-ion battery that could be used in smartphones and laptops — but the network of conductive traces does increase the overall size of the battery, so it’s probably better suited for use in electric vehicles (EVs). Obviously, an EV that can be recharged in under a minute is pretty crazy — though it still only brings them in-line with their gas-guzzling cousins. Being able to charge quickly is convenient, but it doesn’t get around the fact that li-ion battery packs are incredibly expensive — and the Korean carbonized LMO battery certainly won’t be cheap.
I could see fast-charge batteries as being a nice option for smartphone and laptop users, though: You could have a normal battery and a fast-charge battery, and switch in whichever one makes most sense for your daily routine. Fast-charge batteries could be convenient in wireless mice and keyboards, and other gizmos, too.
Finally, just thinking out loud: The battery in a Tesla Roadster stores 56 kWh of electric energy. To recharge that in under a minute would require an awful lot of power and some very thick cables, right?
Research paper: DOI: 10.1002/anie.201203581 [paywalled]