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This breakthrough could help double the battery life of future phones

Lithium-metal batteries can hold twice the capacity as a normal lithium-ion battery

Image: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

FOR SMARTPHONES, BATTERY life generally lasts a day or so, but a new type of battery could help them last longer on a single charge.

SolidEnergy, a company that started out life at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, is developing a lithium metal battery which can offer double the capacity of a lithium-ion battery, the standard used to power many devices today.

While lithium-ion batteries have improved, they have struggled to keep up with the changes in hardware as microchips become more powerful year after year.

Since a lithium metal battery can hold twice as many ions – the particles that store a battery’s charge – it means that manufacturers could make a battery half the size as a normal lithium-ion battery but maintain the same capacity. Alternatively, they could make one the same size which would double a device’s battery life.

“It is kind of the holy grail for batteries,” said SolidEnergy’s CEO Qichao Hu to MIT News.

BatteryOnlyImage A standard lithium-ion battery (right) beside the new model (left). Source: SolidBattery

Researchers have spent years trying to figure out a way to extend battery life. While using a lithium-metal foil was seen as one way to do this, issues with the foil overheating, which would see it ignite and lose capacity, prevented it from being adopted.

SolidBattery solved this by using a solid and liquid hybrid electrolyte solution, which doesn’t react badly to the foil, making it as safe as a normal battery.

The company is looking towards a November launch and plans to make the technology available to smartphone makers and wearables next year. Batteries will also be developed for other devices like electric cars, which Hu says could have a “huge societal impact” as it could double their range.

However, drones will be the first to get the new battery from November onwards.

“Several customers are using drones and balloons to provide free internet to the developing world, and to survey for disaster relief,” said Hu. “It’s a very exciting and noble application.”

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Quinton O'Reilly

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