As smartphones become more ingrained in our daily lives, a battery that can hold a charge all day is more important than ever to consumers. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Take Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone 4S, for instance. Consumers flocked to Apple stores in droves to scoop up the device, only for many of them to discover that the battery screeches to a halt after eight hours or less.
Not good news for those becoming addicted to the device’s celebrated (and battery-sucking) personal assistant app, Siri.
Luckily for them, however, new research from Northwestern University could make battery anxiety for smartphone and tablet owners a thing of the past.
Let me explain…
Solving Capacity Issues With a Carbon and Silicon Sandwich
When you charge a mobile device’s battery, a chemical reaction forces lithium ions from one end of the battery to the other. The amount of time a battery holds a charge depends on how many ions you can jam into it at once.
This capacity is limited by how many lithium atoms a battery’s layered carbon sheets can accommodate. Right now, it’s not many.
But using silicon instead of carbon can boost the density of lithium ions considerably. Except silicon tends to expand and contract – compromising a battery’s ability to hold a charge.
So Northwestern University researchers decided to step in and tackle this problem.
You see, instead of replacing the carbon entirely, they figured out how to stabilize the silicon by sandwiching it in between a battery’s carbon layers.
As a result, they created a lithium-ion battery that can last more than a week without being plugged in!
But that’s just one benefit of their amazing breakthrough…
From 0% to 100% in 15 Minutes Flat
Carbon sheets don’t just lower a battery’s charge capacity. They’re also the reason it takes so long to charge our mobile devices in the first place.
Lithium ions need to travel to the edges of each carbon sheet before passing through them, creating what scientists call an “ionic traffic jam.”
To solve this issue, the Northwestern team punctured the sheets with tiny 10-nanometer holes. This resulted in the battery charging about 10-times faster – in just 15 minutes flat.
But there’s a catch: After 150 charges, this new system begins to lose its affect.
However, it would still take well over a year to reach 150 charges, since the battery lasts more than a week. So I wouldn’t worry about that limit. Besides, even after you reach this 150-charge threshold, the battery is still five-times more efficient than today’s technology.
When can you hope to get this stellar battery performance in your own devices?
Well, researchers see the technology hitting the market in the next three to five years. Meaning you shouldn’t expect to see it in the iPhone 5.
But as battery issues continue to plague some iPhone 4S users, perhaps it’s worth waiting for the seventh or eighth member in the Apple lineup.