We use batteries now more than ever, so much so that the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to those who developed the lithium-ion batteries that are used in mobile phones, laptops and electric vehicles.
With so many personal electronic devices, as well as previously analogue devices, becoming digital, the need for batteries is showing no signs of slowing down. However, these devices need a little more than the standard AAs that you put in your remote control. Here we’re taking a look at the latest developments in battery technology that are making it possible to power innovative new devices.
Light foldable batteries
Devices with flexibility, such as smart watches or electronic tattoos, need to have power sources that are flexible too. Those with an eye to the future of wearable technology are looking to develop electronic clothing and other applications that will also require small, flexible batteries. The problem with foldable batteries is that in the past it has not been possible to manufacture them in such a way to hold enough charge to be truly effective.
However, recently, a Korean research team has successfully developed a monolithic electrode that can replace copper collectors in batteries, reducing their weight and allowing them flexibility and the ability to operate at a high capacity. The weight of these new batteries is 10 times lower than those using conventional copper collectors and they can be recharged over 800 times.
Whilst batteries have a reputation as being difficult to correctly dispose of, researchers have been working on a new type of battery that could have a reduced environmental impact as well as reduced production costs. The new concept uses aluminium battery technology with twice the energy density of previous models, making them possible for large scale use and mass production with a much smaller environmental impact.
Older designs of aluminium batteries used graphite as the cathode, but these batteries had low performance due to graphite’s low energy content. In this new model, the graphite has been replaced with a nanostructured cathode made of anthraquinone. It will be a while before aluminium batteries are in popular use, as their energy density isn’t as high as lithium-ion batteries, but the future looks promising for an environmentally- friendly battery in our electronic devices.
Carbon-dioxide reducing battery
Going one step further, a type of battery has been developed that serves to reduce our carbon footprint. These large, specialised batteries are not used to power a separate device but use battery technology to absorb carbon dioxide from the air that passes over its electrodes as it is charging up. When the battery discharges, it releases the carbon dioxide into a carrier stream so that it can be used for purposes such as the carbonation of soft drinks, rather than be released into the atmosphere.
Many industries that require CO2 for their processes burn fossil fuels to create the gas. However, the development of this technology means that the use of fossil fuels can be reduced or even eliminated in these situations. Certain forms of these batteries have been developed to absorb carbon dioxide from the natural air, but they are not quite as effective as the ones used in flue emissions from power plants using fossil fuels. However, with more development, the future could see these batteries being a significant factor in the battle against climate change.
Wi-Fi charging batteries
Of all the latest developments in battery technology, this could be the biggest game-changer. Researchers have developed a radio wave harvesting antenna that can be used by a device to harvest AC power from the Wi-Fi signals in the air and convert that power to DC. In turn, it can then be used to power the device or recharge a battery.
The obvious benefit of this technology is for our phones and smart devices – we use the most battery in places where we are also using Wi-Fi, so having the ability to charge the device via that same source without plugging in will mean our batteries will last much longer. We’re also less likely to run out of charge when we need it, in areas with no Wi-Fi signal, as the device is likely to have charged itself more recently.
Another benefit, however, is how this device can be used to replace internal batteries in other devices that need a charge. For example, battery-powered medical pills that are programmed to deliver medication where and when the body needs it after being swallowed by using sensors to respond to bodily signals.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the latest developments in battery technology. The future is sure to be exciting as these technologies will no doubt give rise to further innovation within a range of industries and applications.
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