We’ve come to rely on lithium batteries to power many of our small electronic devices. While we can’t deny that the portability of the devices has made our lives easier, we also can’t deny that those lithium batteries can quickly rack up a considerable expense. Well, some good news has come out of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, in a joint venture with Kangwon National University. Scientists have developed a new battery alternative that will power portable devices. The new energy storage device is safe for users and the environment. It can be fully charged in about 20 seconds, and perhaps most useful- it’s cheaper than modern lithium batteries.
The benefits don’t stop there. The new, aqueous storage device is less likely to catch fire than lithium batteries, too. The technology has been explored for a while now, but scientists had previously run into some limitations. Batteries contain cells that easily transfer electrons between materials, but the aqueous devices have historically had difficulty making those same voltage transfers. The scientists in South Korea, though, seem to have cracked the challenge. They’ve come up with new materials that facilitate the energy exchange at high rates of speed and limit the amount of energy lost between the pair of electrodes. The scientists revealed the details of their aqueous energy storage device in January, in the Journal of Advanced Energy Materials. Many in the field have described the hybrid capacitors as a kind of blend between a battery and a capacitor.
A graphene-based polymer is used to increase the surface area of the anodes, which, in turn, will create a higher capacity. Researchers also used metal oxide nanoparticles in the device’s cathodes. The end result was the faster exchange of energy, a higher density, and minimal energy loss.
USB chargers and flexible solar cells were able to charge the devices in 20 to 30 seconds—pretty impressive considering the power density is about 100 times greater than other aqueous batteries. Plus, the devices can be re-charged and maintain their capacity for 100,000 charges or more.
KAIST officials are hoping that the new devices will help make aqueous capacitors commercially feasible in the small electronic sectors.