In an ideal world, you would be able to continuously stream and watch videos, play high graphic games all day long, make non-stop phone calls, or take gazillion pictures and videos using your smartphone – and your battery charge would never run out! A battery that is both compact, as well as of high capacity is literally the need of the hour. Well, seems like this dream is finally on its way to becoming a reality. An MIT spinout, SolidEnergy Systems has invented rechargeable lithium metal batteries that promise all these and much more! A commercial version of these smartphone batteries is planned to be made available in 2017. While we wait for the countdown, here are some quick facts.
What is special about lithium metal batteries?
The breakthrough on a working prototype of lithium metal batteries happened literally after decades of research. During all these years, lithium ion batteries were used in smartphones.
There were two main challenges associated with the manufacturing of the batteries made of lithium metal. The first challenge was the increased resistance in the battery, thereby reducing the cycle life. The second issue was related to the formation of metal bumps on the anode called dendrites which resulted in short circuits and excessive heating. Another issue was with the temperature – the battery ceased to function unless the temperature was above 175 degrees Fahrenheit. These challenges were overcome by using innovative a solid-liquid hybrid electrolyte solution for coating the lithium metal foil, and by creating a non-inflammable quasi-ionic liquid electrolyte.
The end product was a rechargeable battery that worked at room temperature and had double the capacity of modern lithium-ion batteries. Or, to put it in another way, the size of lithium metal batteries is almost half that of a regular lithium-ion battery.
Not just for smartphones – Cars too
These lithium metal batteries are not just for smartphones. The company is aggressively working on getting the commercial version of these batteries for powering electric cars by the end of 2018. Currently, electric cars can travel a distance of 200 miles using a single charge. If everything goes as planned, the new batteries would be of double the capacity, translating to a distance of 400 miles on a single charge.
Other uses planned for these rechargeable batteries are for wearables and other devices.
While you wait for these lithium metal batteries to get commercialized, check out this amazing compact charger that also doubles up as a power bank.
First application on Drones
The flagship application of these lithium metal batteries will be done on drones in November 2016. The company intends to test out the battery by fitting it on drones and balloons. These drones or balloons would be used in developing worlds for providing free internet, as well as for doing surveys for disaster reliefs.
If successful, these rechargeable lithium metal batteries are going to be game changers. But for now, it is a waiting game – and hoping that it not going to disappoint like its predecessors. Until then, to paraphrase a ‘modern’ blessing– May the internet be always on, May your batteries last very long!