Lightning Flash Charging, Courtesy of MIT

A group of MIT engineers have developed a new way of building lithium-ion batteries that could lead to smaller, lighter, and more efficient power packs. What’s really exciting is that these new li-ion batteries can charge in a matter of seconds rather than hours.

We all use li-ion powered devices regularly. Cell phones, laptops, and even electronic cars can be powered by these types of batteries. Today’s li-ion batteries are pretty good at storing large amounts of power, but they’re also slow at gaining and discharging that energy.  

The slow power rates of today’s batteries are a result of the paths that lithium ions travel through the battery material. MIT professor Gerbrand Ceder and a gGerbrand Ceder raduate student Byoungwoo Kang created a way to make the lithium-ions and the electrons that carry charges across the surface of a battery move more swiftly through the battery material. This development makes it possible for the battery to fill to capacity and deliver a charge much more quickly than today’s technologies.

Further tests also showed the new battery material developed by Ceder and his colleagues does not degrade as much as the previous material when charged and discharged repeatedly. The new material enables smaller and lighter batteries because less material is required for the same result.

The group’s work was supported by the National Science Foundation through the Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program and the Batteries for Advanced Transportation Program of the U.S. Department of Energy. It has already been licensed by two companies.

Ceder and Kang modified materials that are already used in battery production today. As a result, Ceder thinks the new batteries could be publicly available in as little as two years. Even though Ceder’s work is in the beginning stages and should be viewed as an exciting possibility, not a reality, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t excited about the possibility of devices that could charge in a matter of seconds.