MIT Made A New Type Of Rechargeable Battery, Doubling Energy Density While Keeping The Size Of Regular Batteries

A new type of lithium metal battery is capable of powering various electric devices for twice as long, while keeping the same size, meaning that we might soon see the solution to the biggest smartphone problem – battery life.

Image Source: MIT

Image Source: MIT

The battery is made by SolidEnergy Systems, founded by Qichao Hu, MIT alumnus, and former postdoc. The company managed to construct an “anode-free” lithium battery, that’s much denser, energy-wise than standard lithium-based batteries. While the battery is twice as energy-dense, it’s still as safe as regular Lithium-ion batteries used in many devices.

The first prototype demonstration occurred in October 2015, earning SolidEnergy Systems more than $12 million in funds. The company plans to introduce the new battery type to mass market by 2017, while electric cars can expect it by 2018. The surprise is that the first devices sporting the new battery will be drones. The first drones powered by the new lithium-based battery will see the light of day as early as this November. Hu stated that “Several customers are using drones and balloons to provide free Internet to the developing world, and to survey for disaster relief. It’s a very exciting and noble application.”

Hu invented battery during his years at MIT; he said that “With two times the energy density, we can make a battery half the size, but that still lasts the same amount of time, as a lithium ion battery. Or we can make a battery the same size as a lithium ion battery, but now it will last twice as long.”

The biggest upgrade in power independence will be seen in electric cars. While today’s vehicles can go up to around 200 miles before recharging, the new battery should allow vehicles to travel more than 400 miles before needing to stop for a recharge.

Hu basically found the Holy Grail for batteries, as he claims. Scientists tried for decades to develop a rechargeable lithium metal battery but have failed on many occasions. The biggest innovation was using an ultrathin lithium metal foil for the anode, a foil which has only one fifth of a thickness of a traditional metal anode.

One of the biggest challenges was to make the battery work at temperatures lower than 80 degrees Celsius since the first prototypes only worked at 80 degrees or higher temperatures. The problem was solved by Hu, who developed a solid and liquid electrolyte solution, which managed to get the battery to work at low temperatures. Now, his company awaits  the mass market launch and have hopes that in the future, most electric devices will be powered by their new battery type.

This is great news, we all know how painful can be when your phone dies during the day, just because the battery couldn’t power it longer. If the new battery type really is twice denser than regular types, this could mean the end of smartphone battery durability problems. But we just hope manufacturers don’t go on the other side, offering thinner phones sporting batteries with the same capacity, only twice as smaller.

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