Technology

A Future Battery for Your Future Phone

CC / flickr: courtesy KK

So you’ve got the latest, greatest smartphone on the market.  It downloads movies faster than you can watch them; takes photos at a higher resolution than the human eye can apprehend; connects to every bluetooth, wi-fi device and washing machine within seven miles; and does it all as smoothly as a stick of butter being pulled behind a zamboni.   It’s the full package, a technological marvel that would have been unthinkable a decade ago – it’s perfect, right?

Well, to judge by the smartphone users I know, there’s exactly one thing that’s universally complaint-worthy: to paraphrase Carville, it’s the battery life, stupid.  Alas, all your amazing features are reduced to empty jargon once your phone goes dark and silent, your punishment for having gone six whole hours without plugging it in.

Weren’t these things supposed to be portable?

Enter Dr. Harold Kung.  Kung and his engineering team at Northwestern University are hard at work on the battery of the future.  By rearranging the silicon structure within the cells of a lithium-ion battery, they’ve allowed a higher density of ions to gather at the electrode.  In plain English, according to the BBC:

A mobile phone battery built using the Northwestern techniques would charge from flat in 15 minutes and last a week before needing a recharge.

Skeptical?  I am so far, mostly because I’ve heard similar claims in the past that have failed to materialize.  On the other hand, it seems like only a matter of time.  Suppose Kung’s the one to finally pull it off:  wouldn’t this be awesome?  I’d feel untethered, free to take my device anywhere without constantly scanning for outlets.  And it’s not just for phones, either.  Lithium-based batteries also power your laptop, your pacemaker, and an increasing number (PDF link) of space probes, orbiters and satellites.  Longer battery life in those cases might mean the difference between having surgery or not, between a successful Mars mission and an aborted one.

What do you think?  Will this come to pass?  If it does, what new and fantastic applications can you come up with?

(h/t to Brad B.  Thanks for the tip!)

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