Batteries are an essential part of modern technology, even if they operate quietly in the background rather than hogging the headlines with each product release.
From smartphones and laptops to the increasing number of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid cars on the market, batteries are the foundation on which many consumer tech advances are built. And, with the shift toward renewable energy gathering pace, finding new ways to store it means that battery development is speeding up to match.
So, what's the latest battery technology? We've got a peek into what you can expect from the world of batteries in the future.
Greater Energy Storage Capacity, Longer Battery Life
Today's lithium-ion batteries pack a lot of power into a small, lightweight unit. However, new battery technology continues to improve rapidly. Jack Goodenough, the inventor of lithium-ion batteries, has come up with a new version based on sodium . Among other benefits, it's estimated that it will have three times the energy capacity, meaning more power stored in a smaller package.
This would be convenient for smartphones and other devices, allowing a longer life between charges. It could also be a vital factor in the eventual takeover of electric vehicles. However, until the range of an EV can match or beat that of a standard car, gas-burning engines will probably have the edge on convenience and consumer-friendliness.
Quicker Charging Times
Storage capacity is only one of the issues that technology needs to overcome before transport can fully transition to electric engines. Charging times also need to be reduced considerably.
One of the latest developments in battery technology is known as XFC, named for extremely fast charging . It hopes to deliver a 200-mile driving range from a ten-minute charge, without overloading the vehicle's battery.
While this would be a useful advance, the new generation of batteries based on sodium should be able to charge even more quickly. This could make electric vehicles the equal of gas-powered vehicles for daily convenience.
Faster charging will also open the door to true wireless charging for smaller devices. While over-the-air charging technology already exists, it may be too slow and inconvenient for real-world use. Faster-charging batteries with greater energy density could make charging your phone on-the-go a reality.
Using Eco-Friendly, Renewable Sources
The latest sodium battery technology has another major benefit. Today's lithium batteries rely on so-called rare earth metals. As the name implies, these materials are a scarce natural resource and reserves are dwindling as battery use grows. Mining and processing rare earth metals also have ecological implications due to their heavy use of chemicals.
In contrast, the raw materials for sodium batteries are abundant, cheap, clean and completely renewable. Combine this with renewable energy from sources such as solar and wind, and the prospect of limitless clean energy could be only a few years away.
In the meantime, batteries based on a new technology called Ryden dual carbon can be made in the same factories as current lithium-ion models. However, they would offer up to 20 times better performance and a much lower environmental footprint during production.
Today's batteries are a wonder of engineering and design and are powering advances across the whole spectrum of technology. But with so much in store for the future, we may only have seen the start of what they could offer.