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Researchers Report Super-Powered Battery Breakthrough 244

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-will-they-be-in-my-phone dept.
another random user writes with news that researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are reporting a breakthrough in battery technology. They say: "With currently available power sources, users have had to choose between power and energy. For applications that need a lot of power, like broadcasting a radio signal over a long distance, capacitors can release energy very quickly but can only store a small amount. For applications that need a lot of energy, like playing a radio for a long time, fuel cells and batteries can hold a lot of energy but release it or recharge slowly. ... The new microbatteries offer both power and energy, and by tweaking the structure a bit, the researchers can tune them over a wide range on the power-versus-energy scale (abstract). The batteries owe their high performance to their internal three-dimensional microstructure. Batteries have two key components: the anode (minus side) and cathode (plus side). Building on a novel fast-charging cathode design by materials science and engineering professor Paul Braun’s group, King and Pikul developed a matching anode and then developed a new way to integrate the two components at the microscale to make a complete battery with superior performance. With so much power, the batteries could enable sensors or radio signals that broadcast 30 times farther, or devices 30 times smaller. The batteries are rechargeable and can charge 1,000 times faster than competing technologies – imagine juicing up a credit-card-thin phone in less than a second. In addition to consumer electronics, medical devices, lasers, sensors and other applications could see leaps forward in technology with such power sources available."
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Researchers Report Super-Powered Battery Breakthrough

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  • by Scutter (18425) on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @03:33PM (#43475785) Journal

    ...Magic was discovered today and practical and affordable applications for it are now only 30 years away!

    • by Belial6 (794905) on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @04:09PM (#43476255)
      The thing is that 'magic' (as in your example which is 'Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.') has been discovered with practical and affordable applications so many times in our lifetimes that it isn't an absurd to believe it will happen again.
      • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @04:27PM (#43476429)

        The thing is that 'magic' (as in your example which is 'Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.') has been discovered with practical and affordable applications so many times in our lifetimes that it isn't an absurd to believe it will happen again.

        Wait. This new battery was written in Perl?

      • by Scutter (18425)

        Virtually all of that magic has been incremental steps, not exponential leaps. Whenever I read a new report of a scientific breakthrough that is suddenly orders of magnitude beyond the level of what we have now, I'm skeptical of it. When there is an actual working product that is actually on the market (and not just promises that it will be there within 5 years), then I'll get excited about it. Until then, this is just another vaporware.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Thus we get yet another example of the difference between the frolicking Eloi in the garden and the lurking Morlock below patiently waiting with knife and fork ready.
          To put it another way, waiting for things to become available in Walmart before noticing them means at some point wondering WTF has happened to the world.
          • by Scutter (18425)

            I think you are misinterpreting what I said. The media has a habit of misreporting scientific studies and the scientific community has a habit of falsifying data to get published. Therefore, when I hear a claim of a sudden breakthrough that is unbelievable, I...don't believe it. Or at least maintain a healthy skepticism. While these batteries may very well be exactly what the story claims, the real proof in the pudding will be if this ever makes it off paper, which it surely will if it's as amazing as

        • by geekoid (135745)

          That mean you shouldn't be here, or reading any articles about science or engineering.. What you want to be looking at is a catalog, or Amazon.

      • by gutnor (872759)

        Well magic battery technology practical and affordable has been discovered several times in the last decade. We are still waiting for the practical application ... It is very cheap to claim breakthrough in science. The only interesting thing is that it is not using graphene.

        And that's not a recent phenomenon. When I was a kid almost 3 decades ago, I loved to read science magazine. I don't think a quarter of the breakthrough made it to production.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @03:37PM (#43475851)

    That was the most worthless infomercial ever.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @03:59PM (#43476161)

      Agreed. The whole article is full of vague comparison like 30 times farther, 30 times smaller, 1000 times faster etc. The abstract does not even talk about energy density. It only talks about power density. Even that is blatantly exaggerated. Based on the abstract, it translated to max 74 W/cm^3. The article claims, cell phone using batteries few millimeter in size can jump start a car. How is this possible unless the definition of "few" is overstretched and use a cell phone of the size of olden days public phone.

      • from the abstract:
        "Here we report lithium ion microbatteries having power densities up to 7.4mWcm2m1..."

    • by GaratNW (978516)
      Read the abstract instead. You get more in one paragraph that that whole PR fluff piece called an article.
    • by Beorytis (1014777)
      Probably because it's coming from the News Bureau which generates releases for publications with general readership. There's probably something better if you dig into the homepages for the individual researchers and labs. Paul Braun's group [illinois.edu], which created the electrodes, has some PDF articles. William King's page has a list of publications, but no links or documents.
  • OK, if this actually works out, this is great news. Fast charge and discharge are incredibly useful. Unfortunately, the article does not say anything about storing more energy than existing batteries, which I assume means energy storage is about the same. So, you will be able to recharge your phone very quickly (seconds?), but the phone will still last as long on the batteries as it does now.

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @03:42PM (#43475919)

      Which if we stop sacrificing everything at the alter of thin is fine.

      A GS3 or Iphone5 could be twice the thickness and easily just as portable and easy to use. This would more than double the battery life since the extra volume could essentially be just battery and not radio or mobo.

      So you would have a smartphone that lasted 2-5 days and could be charged in minutes.

      On the car side, 100 miles is plenty of range if I can charge in 10 minutes. That would give you a nice short break every 2 hours.

      • by locopuyo (1433631)
        As someone who carries his phone in his pocket instead of his purse I disagree.
      • by Joce640k (829181)

        A GS3 or Iphone5 could be twice the thickness and easily just as portable and easy to use. This would more than double the battery life since the extra volume could essentially be just battery and not radio or mobo.

        Double the thickness would triple or quadruple the battery capacity.

        But don't hold your breath. I expect this to happen around the same time fashion designers stop using walking bags of antlers to model their clothes.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          I was trying to be conservative with my estimates.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            If you had actually been paying attention, you would have notices cell phones are getting bigger.

        • It's why I opted for the lower performance but much better battery in my RAZR MAXX over the RAZR when they first came out.

          Next though, it'll be performance. Holding out to see if it'll be the S4 or if another flagship phone will be worth buying Q3/4 ish...

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            If they offered that with stock android or at least an unlocked boot loader I would have considered it.

            • by EdZ (755139)

              If they offered that with stock android or at least an unlocked boot loader I would have considered it.

              If you're willing to buy it off-contract (and thus unsubsidised) such a thing exists [motorola.com], in the US at least.

        • by es330td (964170)

          I expect this to happen around the same time fashion designers stop using walking bags of antlers to model their clothes.

          Can we start a global campaign to have Christina Hendricks model all women's clothing to address this problem?

      • by Wycliffe (116160)

        I've considered several times trying to modify my phone to take a battery twice as large.
        If used heavily, my phone usually dies halfway through the evening which means doubling
        the capacity would be more than enough. I don't have a problem plugging my phone in every
        evening so I really only need 12-16 hours instead of the 8-10 I currently get but ideally I would
        want 40 hours (or a second battery) for the rare occasion I forget to plug it in. Either way, my
        phone is plenty thin and I would barely notice the e

        • by bjs555 (889176)

          You could try this:
          http://boondeeworkshop.com/cellphone/index.html [boondeeworkshop.com]
          Not exactly portable. It might make sense if you use your phone mostly in your car.

          • by Wycliffe (116160)

            Amusing. I actually just discovered that there are third parties that make double capacity
            batteries and modified battery covers under the name "high-capacity" or more commonly
            "extended". For my phone the prices seemed to be only $10-$20 for the new extended battery
            and the free case. Not for sure why I never thought to search for this before.

      • by evilviper (135110)

        On the car side, 100 miles is plenty of range if I can charge in 10 minutes. That would give you a nice short break every 2 hours.

        No, that would give you a nice short heart-attack every hour, as you rush to find the nearest freeway exist, and nearby charging station, before running completely out of power.

        If we had Nascar-like service stations every 20 miles along every stretch of road, highway, freeway, and dirt path, everywhere... THEN 100 mile range would work just-fine. Otherwise, no. 200 is a pretty

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          How fast are you driving? and do you only drive on freeways?

          200 is 4 hours assuming not all freeway. Even freeway you would be at 3 hours. Which is a long time to be behind the wheel. If you live out in the west I can see that.

          Here on the East coast 100 miles would be fine.

          • by evilviper (135110)

            Here on the East coast 100 miles would be fine

            I doubt it. Plenty of folks on the east coast commute, too. I'm sure plenty of them drive close to 100 miles each way... enough to give them severe range anxiety.

            And that's just commuting... Start talking about weekend trips, and lots of people go way over that 100 mile trip range, and have to panic to find a station, and curse the extra time.

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              100 miles would take you from NYC to Philly with 3 miles to spare. That is long way. 100 mile commutes, each way are pretty rare on the east coast.

              Even a weekend trip, that is a decent distance, much longer and you might as well take a plane.

              • 100 miles would take you from NYC to Philly with 3 miles to spare. That is long way. 100 mile commutes, each way are pretty rare on the east coast.

                Even a weekend trip, that is a decent distance, much longer and you might as well take a plane.

                Wow, you are soooo out of touch.... that is not a long way... not even close...

                I do a 70+ miles round trip commute every day in the North East (Boston area). Unless there is a charge station at work, a 100 mile range just won't cut it. Especially when you start to factor in sitting in traffic due to accidents, storms, reduced range due to below freezing weather, etc. I would feel more comfortable with a 200 mile range, but that is still cutting it close in the winter time (reduced power due to frigid w

          • by peragrin (659227)

            I live on the east coast and routinely drive 5 hours at a stretch. My parents are 5 hours and just under 300 miles away. I can do it in one tank of gas easy.

            I have gone as long 6 hours before stopping to stretch. After that the car usually needs gas anyways.

        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          If we had Nascar-like service stations every 20 miles along every stretch of road, highway, freeway, and dirt path, everywhere... THEN 100 mile range would work just-fine. Otherwise, no. 200 is a pretty good minimum, assuming fast charging stations proliferating.

          *You* must be a professional driver or be a traveling salesman or something. From http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-15.pdf [census.gov], 42.3% of people took fewer than 20 minutes to get to work. (You get to 56.5% for fewer than 25). Even if that 20 minut

        • by geekoid (135745)

          There was a time when 100 miles was the range of any car, yet they still drove them across the country. If it was popular all that would means in more charging station.

          Or a portable windmill

      • by rssrss (686344)

        With phones and other small devices that store electricity in milliamp hours the capacity of the grid inputs is not an issue. With cars it is the gating concern.

        If a car can go 5 miles on a charge of one kilowatt hour, it will take a charge of 20 KWh to travel 100 mi. If you use a 240v 30 Amp.line which can transmit 7.2 KWh in one hour, a 20 KWh charge will take more than 3 hrs. (hint the charging process will not be 100% efficient).

        To transmit 20 KWh in 10 min requires 120 KW of power. By way of comparison

        • Yes, energy transfer is most certainly a gating concern.

          Tesla's supercharger cable transmits power at the rate of 90kw right now. The Model S can have an 85Kwh battery, so we are looking at recharge times of about an hour. If the batteries are not limiting in any way, one would need to connect 57 of these supercharging cables to the car to recharge in 60 seconds. Clearly, a new charging port would be needed. Let's see, if we want to move 85 KwH in one minute, our charge rate needs to be

      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        I actually agree with you about the thickness part.. but..

        So you would have a smartphone that lasted 2-5 days and could be charged in minutes.

        Do you mean with CURRENT battery technology, or what was described here? Even a current phone takes more than "minutes" (what people infer as "a few minutes") to charge all the way.

    • I keep hoping for the battery that will finally allow the electric motor to kill the combustion engine. What little the article says sounds great, but it doesn't speak to a lot of questions, and too soon concludes with trite superlative and celebratory statements. "... breaks the normal paradigms of energy sources." Sure it does-- if such batteries aren't prohibitively expensive to manufacture, can be scaled up to power cars, don't have memory problems, will last for thousands of discharge cycles, aren

      • by lgw (121541)

        I keep hoping for the battery that will finally allow the electric motor to kill the combustion engine.

        Why? Combustion engines are fun. Anyhow, this battery seems to be about faster charge rate, and the battery pack is already not the bottleneck there for cars.

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      I can see these being a step between supercaps and slow charging, but high energy density per volume batteries.

      For example, when it comes to solar, you want a charge controller that can get as much energy as possible. Then once the fast charging elements near 100%, start charging slower, but more energy dense batteries. This will help to maximize what comes from the panels for user during the night.

  • Unless there is a massive increase in power density within a battery, it ain't a super battery, nor is it a breakthrough.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      If it can charge in seconds it does not need huge power density. If you could charge your phone in 1 minute than it only lasting 24 hours would be fine. If you could charge your car in 10 minutes than only having 100 mile range would be fine.

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        If it can charge in seconds, then by very definition it has a huge power density. Perhaps you meant energy density?
      • by Punko (784684)
        Power density is key. Yes, a reduction in charge time is great, but spending 10 mins charging for each hour of driving would NOT be desirable.

        Unless I get at least 30:1 run time vs charge time for an electric vehicle with a 3 hour minimum run time, I'm not sold. As for the phone battery, 1 minute for 24 hours that's a 1400:1 ratio (run time vs charge time) If I could get that for a car, we'd drop gasoline in a heartbeat.
  • The Fine Print (Score:5, Informative)

    by Darth Cider (320236) on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @03:40PM (#43475891)
    From the supplemental material: "The energy densities of the microbatteries are initially superior to the supercapcitors, but lose an average 5% total energy density after each cycle."
    • by Isca (550291)
      I wish I had moderator points today. This is the key. Imagine of the battery only lasted half as long after only 30 days. NO THANK YOU!
  • Behold the Motorola TAZR!
  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @03:55PM (#43476101)

    imagine juicing up a credit-card-thin phone in less than a second

    I'd like to, but my fuses just blew, the connector in the phone melted down, there's a smell of burning plastic insulation in my room, and a small fire seems to have started burning here, so I have other things on my mind!

    • by mapsjanhere (1130359) on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @04:00PM (#43476171)
      The phone is credit-card thin, but the power connectors equal those on a car battery.
    • Apple's Lightning II connector coming soon...

    • by dzelenka (630044)

      imagine juicing up a credit-card-thin phone in less than a second

      I'd like to, but my fuses just blew, the connector in the phone melted down, there's a smell of burning plastic insulation in my room, and a small fire seems to have started burning here, so I have other things on my mind!

      Why is this rated funny instead of insightful? Moving more energy in less time is going to generate heat, lots of heat.

      Also, instead of flawed batteries that seriously overheat we could have flawed batteries that explode.

  • Previous attempts to increase reaction surface area have included alternatining disks, folded sheets, porous poweders, nanotubes ... But the tiny networked cubes shown in the diagram looks like it could be a winner.
  • ...do we ignore the first law of thermodynamics? If these batteries charge 1,000 times faster then they must put off 1,000 times the heat or so one would think under the law. Further, the largest collection of Lithium is sea water, but it is very inefficient to harvest existing at the ppm level.

    • .do we ignore the first law of thermodynamics? If these batteries charge 1,000 times faster then they must put off 1,000 times the heat or so one would think under the law.

      The first law of thermodynamics says that energy isn't created or destroyed. It has nothing to do with charging rates. With respect to charging it just tells you that the stored energy added plus the losses (mostly heat) add up to the energy you supplied. (Second law says you have to lose SOMETHING to make the charging happen - though it

  • Somewhere... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordStormes (1749242) on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @04:11PM (#43476269) Homepage Journal

    ... Elon Musk has one hell of a rager over this. This could make electric cars that could go from Florida to New York on one charge, and recharge in similar time to a gas refill, a possibility.

    Say you got 500 miles to a charge, which is a reasonable amount if these numbers are to be believed. That's the amount of miles driven by the average US driver in 2 weeks. So if the battery needs to be replaced after 8-10 charges, you're talking once a quarter. If the battery costs $250 and is easily user-replaceable, this isn't a big deal:

    My quick, rough math says that if it lost 5% of the original maximum after every charge and the maximum charge of a brand new battery were 500 miles, 10 charges would come out to 3875 miles. If the battery can be produced for $250, that comes out to 15.5 miles to every $1 spent on the battery. Now, consider experiments are in progress to allow free/nearly free recharges, so the cost would really be reduced to just the battery. The current gas price I see out my window is $3.33/gal and my Scion xB gets about 30 MPG.

    So, my Scion costs $3.33 to go 30 miles. The Tesla with a $250 battery would cost $2, and not explode the environment.

    I'm sold. // of course these costs are pure conjecture until we know more.

    • Re:Somewhere... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday April 17, 2013 @06:05PM (#43477557) Journal

      Recharging in the same time as a gas refill is unlikely to ever happen.

      To go NY to Florida in an electric car will take on the order of 1MWh. To recharge this in 5 minutes (gas refill time) would require a cable transferring a power of 12MW. If we used 25,000 volts to do this (the voltage of overhead electrical lines for high speed electric trains) the current would be 480 amps. It's simply not practical to do while obeying the laws of physics.

      Now think of how many people are fuelling up at a gas station at any given moment, and think about it if they are all drawing a power of 12 megawatts. There is no practical technology for the forseeable future that you can use to build a power grid capable of doing this. This is before we even get to safety issues of a power interconnect which is both high voltage and high current.

      Also think of that 12MW figure for a moment, and you may get an inkling why personal motorised transport is absolutely unsustainable.

      • by Brannon (221550)

        > Recharging in the same time as a gas refill is unlikely to ever happen.

        Agreed, but only because it is unnecessary, not because it is impossible. A 15 minute recharge every 4 hours (250 miles) is about as good as anyone really needs.

        > To go NY to Florida in an electric car will take on the order of 1MWh.

        Tesla Model S goes 265 miles on 85 Kwh for 3 miles/kwh, so the trip from Orlando to NYC (~1000 miles) would take about 333kwh which is about $40 worth of power (nothing unsustainable about that for th

  • "Don't you worry, never fear, robin hood will soon be here!"
    "Well, where is he?"

    Every damn week, there's another article here on Slashdot about some revolutionary energy tech, and every week it gets forgotten about, and in the meantime we can't even get our country to agree to build a pebble bed reactor to make electricity from all the nuclear waste we're currently throwing into the ocean.

    I'll believe this advancement (like the super efficient or the super cheap solar cells), when it's available to the cons

  • All I want on the side of my battery not is a logo that says, "King/Pikul" Start a jam band, name it King Pickle, profit.

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