The EV Battery Holy Grail: 5-Minute Recharging
Braun’s group developed a three-dimensional nanostructure for battery cathodes that allows for dramatically faster charging and discharging without sacrificing energy storage capacity. The researchers’ findings will be published in the March 20 advance online edition of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Aside from quick-charge consumer electronics, batteries that can store a lot of energy, release it fast and recharge quickly are desirable for electric vehicles, medical devices, lasers and military applications.
“This system that we have gives you capacitor-like power with battery-like energy,” said Braun, a professor of materials science and engineering. “Most capacitors store very little energy. They can release it very fast, but they can’t hold much. Most batteries store a reasonably large amount of energy, but they can’t provide or receive energy rapidly. This does both.”
The performance of typical lithium-ion (Li-ion) or nickel metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries degrades significantly when they are rapidly charged or discharged. Making the active material in the battery a thin film allows for very fast charging and discharging, but reduces the capacity to nearly zero because the active material lacks volume to store energy.
Braun’s group wraps a thin film into three-dimensional structure, achieving both high active volume (high capacity) and large current. They have demonstrated battery electrodes that can charge or discharge in a few seconds, 10 to 100 times faster than equivalent bulk electrodes, yet can perform normally in existing devices.
This kind of performance could lead to phones that charge in seconds or laptops that charge in minutes, as well as high-power lasers and defibrillators that don’t need time to power up before or between pulses.
Braun is particularly optimistic for the batteries’ potential in electric vehicles. Battery life and recharging time are major limitations of electric vehicles. Long-distance road trips can be their own form of start-and-stop driving if the battery only lasts for 100 miles and then requires an hour to recharge.
“If you had the ability to charge rapidly, instead of taking hours to charge the vehicle you could potentially have vehicles that would charge in similar times as needed to refuel a car with gasoline,” Braun said. “If you had five-minute charge capability, you would think of this the same way you do an internal combustion engine. You would just pull up to a charging station and fill up.”