Scientists have recently determined that a new group of cheap materials may actually hold the key to faster battery charging. If further testing shows this to be true, it’s possible that smartphones and other devices could go from very low battery to completely full in only a few minutes. The implications for these materials go far beyond simply keeping tablets and phones charged, though—it’s possible this could be the key to improving charging times for electric cars and even solar power, allowing these clean forms of energy to become much more useful.
How Charging Speeds Work
When a battery is charged, the speed at which it absorbs energy is partially dependent upon how quickly lithium ions, a positively charged particle, move to the negatively charged electrode that houses the stored energy. If these lithium ions are not able to more to the electrode quickly, it takes longer to charge the battery.
One solution to this is to simply decrease the size of the overall battery using nanoparticles. This would reduce the space across which the lithium ions would have to move, but unfortunately, it does have a major drawback: nanoparticles are very costly and can be difficult to make. With few options there, scientists have begun looking at other options to reduce charging times while still falling into an affordable price range.
A New Option
The current group of materials that these experts are testing consists of niobium tungsten oxides. These materials allow lithium ions to move very quickly, reducing the time it takes for them to reach the electrode. The study notes that these materials differ from the current materials used in battery charging at a fundamental level. The particle sizes of niobium tungsten oxides are larger than other materials, and the materials also have an open structure that is more rigid. Scans taken of these materials showed that lithium ions can move through these materials hundreds of times faster than they moved through materials more commonly used in batteries.
Another important factor that has researchers excited about niobium tungsten oxides is the cost. These materials are much cheaper than other options, plus they are easier to manufacture. Some can even be created using recycled materials. There are no solvents or chemicals to add, either, which would result in batteries that are safer and less likely to explode or catch fire in an accident.
The next step in this study is to look at how these materials can be optimized to use in full batteries that can be used in electric cars. If these materials do work in batteries as the scientists believe they will, it could allow vehicles to be charged incredibly quickly. Buses that use electric batteries, for example, could charge up at a bus stop while passengers are getting on and off. Electric cars could be completely recharged at a charging station in as little time as it takes to fill up a gas tank.
While further studies are needed, the use of niobium tungsten oxides in batteries may be one of the key breakthroughs that allow electric vehicles to reach their full potential. The ease of manufacturing and relatively low cost when compared to alternatives makes them a very attractive option for any device that uses a rechargeable battery. Everything from smartphones to large buses could make use of niobium tungsten oxide batteries someday soon.