In the tech scene, it’s common knowledge that the power of our devices aren’t really limited by the hardware contained within. Rather, the bottleneck that we just can’t quite get through is that of battery power. Lately, every major step the industry takes in — for example — producing a new phone or tablet will see some worthwhile increase in storage capacity, RAM, and processing power. However, either the device runs out of juice a little faster than a previous version, or it can run for around the same amount of unsatisfying time. Unfortunately, the more services used on a device, the quicker the battery dies, as anyone who plays games on a mobile device during a commute laments. However, what if your phone could play an online game for an extended commute, but you didn’t have to worry about when and where the next electrical outlet would appear in your life?Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new microbattery that is stronger than supercapacitors, and can recharge in no time at all.Generally, batteries come with a significant tradeoff. As James Pikul — author of the research paper — put it, you can’t get high power if you want high energy. However, the research team has achieved just that and created a high power, high energy battery. Furthermore, the team can tweak the batteries to alter that power-to-energy ratio. The new technology comes by way of the team creating a new fast-charging cathode, then developing an anode to pair with it. The standard lithium-ion battery you’re all familiar with is composed of a two-dimensional graphite anode and a lithium salt cathode — both solid. The new battery is composed of a porous three-dimensional anode and cathode.This new implementation allows the batteries to charge 1000 times faster than a standard lithium-ion battery, and could fully charge a small phone in less than a second. It would also allow devices to be powered by a battery that’s 30 times smaller than the current norm, and would also allow wireless devices to power their signals to travel 30 times farther.Though the power-to-energy ratio has been significantly advanced, that doesn’t mean the batteries will appear in Apple and Samsung’s next phones and tablets. The research team now has the task of figuring out how to include the new batteries inside consumer electronics — specifically if the technology is able to scale up to something that can connect to a phone. The research team also has to figure out a low-cost manufacturing solution.We regularly see new stronger phones, or very cheap computers with decent power output, but we rarely ever experience a revolution in battery technology. Perhaps now that the University of Illinois research team has created this new type of battery, in just a few years we won’t ever have to worry about fighting over the one available outlet at a coffee shop ever again.
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