Electronics

A new type of glass could double your smartphone's battery life

Vanadate-borate glass could almost double the amount of time lithium-ion batteries last between charges (Photo: ETH Zürich/Peter Rüegg)
Vanadate-borate glass could almost double the amount of time lithium-ion batteries last between charges (Photo: ETH Zürich/Peter Rüegg)
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Vanadate-borate glass could almost double the amount of time lithium-ion batteries last between charges (Photo: ETH Zürich/Peter Rüegg)
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Vanadate-borate glass could almost double the amount of time lithium-ion batteries last between charges (Photo: ETH Zürich/Peter Rüegg)

The batteries inside our smartphones and laptops are fighting a losing battle when it comes to keeping these devices juiced up, but researchers from ETH Zurich have discovered a new type of glass material that could make a major difference: vanadate-borate glass. The glass can be used as an electrode material in lithium-ion batteries to almost double the amount of time they last between charges.

Scientists Semih Afyon and Reinhard Nesper are responsible for leading a the team of ETH researchers to the discovery, which has been several years in the making, and it could have a substantial impact in the way devices large and small are powered in the future.

Various challenges had to be overcome to find a material that could both store battery capacity effectively and take a frequent number of charge cycles, while staying stable enough to be viable for use in modern-day electronics.

Chief among these challenges was to harness the potential of vanadium-based compounds, which can take more charge than materials currently used in cathodes, but become unstable after a few charge/discharge cycles because of their crystalline structure. To overcome this, the researchers mixed powdered vanadium pentoxide with borate compounds to create vanadate-borate glass – a material with a high capacity and stable structure that, according to Dr Afyon, is also simple and inexpensive to manufacture.

"What we need is new chemistry and novel compounds to obtain safe, better and longer-lasting batteries," says Dr Afyon of the motivations behind the research. He added that the vanadate-borate glass compound his team has developed could extend smartphone battery life by 1.5 to 2 times and allow electric cars to travel 1.5 times further, though these numbers are still theoretical projections for now.

It's not just gadgets that need better batteries, of course: the number of electric cars, boats and bikes in operation continues to grow, and it's essential for the future sustainability of the planet that these vehicles are able to cope with the increasing demands being put on them. What's more, wind farms and solar power plants need to be able to store generated electricity effectively for when it's required, another purpose that vanadate-borate glass could potentially be used for.

The group's work has been published in full in Scientific Reports and patents have already been applied for to enable the research to continue further. It could take between 10 or 20 years for the discovery made by Afyon and Nesper to actually appear in a consumer device, but it's good news for those perplexed by rapidly draining battery levels: help is on the way.

Source: ETH Zurich

6 comments
piperTom
It's 10 or 20 years out? That's enough time for 5 different revolutions in battery tech. I'd bet that, twenty years from now, people will sneer at "2 times the energy of 2015 batteries."
Eduardo RG
10 to 20 years ??? Are this people is blind ??? Do they know about how many battery technologies are being develop an ready to hit the market in the next 3 to 5 years ??? Have they ever hear about Elon Musk ??? Just Li–S batteries are arounf the corner with graphene included. I think this are inventors that want money grants for 10 to 20 years telling rich people they have the holy grail of batteries technologies. I am not saying it's a scam !!! but what a way to get money year after year... And we, the consumers are stuck with the same old obsolete battery technology after so many years. That compared to the huge amount of "new" chemestry batteries reports I have read in Gizmag is a real shame.
mlmcasual
Ha, Slow news day? Where is the weekly new LAB report CLAIM of 100x Battery life? We literally have DOZENS of various LAB experiments claiming HUGE battery improvements that never make it out of the LAB's test tube. At least Snake Oil Salesmen had an actual product they could give you.. which is more then we can say of the 100 some odd Junk Science test tube battery claims published here and elsewhere over the past few years..
PrometheusGoneWild.com
Why ten to twenty years? It does not sound like it would be that difficult to make. A patent only lasts 20 years. Hard to make money on something anyone can use for free....
Bob Flint
Things don't always evolve the way we think, looking thorough a 1974 copy of National Geographic they predicted near end of oil reserves by 2020, and yet today we have a glut on the market that's a 41 year gap and therefore 10 to 20 years may seem far off for this technological advance, others will surely also evolve.
BRfromPA
I've very tired of hearing about battery breakthroughs. I thought Power Japan Plus had a shot at a reasonable time frame. The Moores Law of batteries must look very flat. With the huge market there is for the next amazing battery I'm thinking it is incredibly difficult and up again huge inertia.