New lithium ion batteries charge in 20 seconds

New battery tech is an M25 for lithium ions. But much, much faster.
New battery tech is an M25 for lithium ions. But much, much faster.

MIT engineers have created a new type of lithium ion battery that can be recharged in just 10 to 20 seconds.

By devising a new material processing technique, Professor Gerbrand Ceder and his team created prototype lithium iron phosphate batteries that can charge or discharge around twenty times faster than today's rechargeables.

Current lithium rechargeable batteries have very high energy densities but have slow power rates, thanks to the fact that they can only charge when the lithium ions are precisely aligned with microscopic tunnels in the battery material.

Skirting the recharging traffic jam

Ceder's team devised a way around the problem by creating a new surface structure that allows the lithium ions to move quickly around the outside of the material, like a ring road. When an ion traveling along this miniature M25 reaches a tunnel, it is instantly diverted into it.

Further tests showed that unlike other battery materials, the new material does not significantly degrade when repeatedly charged and recharged.

"The ability to charge and discharge batteries in a matter of seconds rather than hours may open up new technological applications and induce lifestyle changes," says Ceder.

No least of which could be practical electric car batteries that don't require an overnight connection to get enough power for local jaunts.

Because the material involved is not new - the researchers have simply changed the way they make it - Ceder believes the work could make it into the marketplace within two to three years.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.