Battery advance promises faster recharging

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) have developed a new battery that can be recharged up to 70 per cent in two minutes and has a lifespan of over 20 years.

NTU Singapore expect the breakthrough to an impact on a range of industries, particularly for electric vehicles which are inhibited by recharge times and the limited lifespan of batteries.

Similarly common in a range of electronic devices, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries usually last about 500 recharge cycles, which NTU said is equivalent to two to three years of typical use, with each cycle taking about two hours for the battery to be fully charged.

The battery technology, led by associate Professor Chen Xiaodong from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, is described in Advanced Materials.

Lithium-ion batteries usually use additives to bind the electrodes to the anode, which affects the speed in which electrons and ions can transfer in and out of the batteries.

In the new battery, NTU Singapore’s scientists replaced the graphite normally used for the anode in lithium-ion batteries with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide.

Naturally found in a spherical shape, NTU Singapore developed a method to turn titanium dioxide particles into nanotubes that help speed up chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging.

‘Manufacturing this new nanotube gel is very easy,’ Prof Chen said in a statement. ‘Titanium dioxide and sodium hydroxide are mixed together and stirred under a certain temperature. Battery manufacturers will find it easy to integrate our new gel into their current production processes.’

Moving forward, Prof Chen and his team will be applying for a proof-of-concept grant to build a large-scale battery prototype. With the help of NTUitive, a wholly owned subsidiary of NTU set up to support NTU start-ups, the patented technology has already attracted interest from the industry and is currently being licensed for eventual production.

Prof Chen expects the new generation of fast-charging batteries to come to market in the next two years, bringing with them a key solution in overcoming longstanding power issues related to electromobility.

‘Electric cars will be able to increase their range dramatically, with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars,’ said Prof Chen.

‘Equally important, we can now drastically cut down the toxic waste generated by disposed batteries, since our batteries last ten times longer than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries.’

The 10,000-cycle life of the new battery also means that drivers of electric vehicles would save on the cost of battery replacements, which could cost over $5,000 each.