The latest battery breakthrough comes from Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore), where researchers have developed a lithium-ion battery that they say can be recharged up to 70 per cent in only two minutes, and can endure more than 10,000 charging cycles.
NTU Singapore’s scientists replaced the traditional graphite anode with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide, an abundant, cheap and safe material that’s commonly used as a food additive or in sunscreen lotions. They developed a simple method to turn titanium dioxide particles into tiny nanotubes, which speed up the chemical reactions, allowing for superfast charging.
Associate Professor Chen Xiaodong and his team published their findings in the latest issue of Advanced Materials.
NTU professor Rachid Yazami, who was a co-inventor of the lithium-graphite anode used in most lithium-ion batteries today, said Professor Chen’s invention is the next big leap in battery technology.
“While the cost of lithium-ion batteries has been significantly reduced and its performance improved since Sony commercialized it in 1991, the market is fast expanding towards new applications in electric mobility and energy storage,” said Professor Yazami. “There is still room for improvement and one such key area is the power density, which directly relates to the fast charge ability. Ideally, the charge time for batteries in electric vehicles should be less than 15 minutes, which Professor Chen’s nanostructured anode has proven to do.”
(Clockwise from top) NTU Assoc Prof Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin
The technology is already licensed to a company, and Professor Chen expects that the new generation of fast-charging batteries will hit the market in two years’ time. “With our nanotechnology, electric cars would be able to increase their range dramatically with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars,” says Chen. “Equally important, we can now drastically cut down the waste generated by disposed batteries, since our batteries last ten times longer than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries.”
Lithium-ion batteries usually use additives to bind the electrodes to the anode, which affects the speed with which electrons and ions can transfer in and out of the batteries. However, Professor Chen’s cross-linked titanium dioxide nanotube-based electrodes eliminate the need for these additives and can pack more energy into the same amount of space.
“Manufacturing this new nanotube gel is very easy,” Chen added. “Titanium dioxide and sodium hydroxide are mixed together and stirred under a certain temperature. Battery manufacturers will find it easy to integrate our new gel into their current production processes.”