Lithium-ion batteries are commonplace in consumer electronics, often found in mobile phones and laptops, and the new method of (dis)charging requires little modification to current production methods.
Professor Gerbrand Ceder and his team noted that the passage of lithium ions - the source of the electricity in Li-ion batteries - into 'tunnels' that access the surface of the iron phosphate material was hamstrung by the need for the ions to be positioned directly in front of the tunnel. This slow access is what causes significant (dis)charging time.
By re-engineering the surface material to deliver the ions into the tunnels in a direct, efficient manner, improving ion speed and therefore discharging time, the MIT brains were able to prove that a battery could be discharged in 20 seconds, compared to hours for a consumer Li-ion battery.
However, look a bit deeper and there's no proof that charging time will be equally quick, but the basic science appears to apply in both directions, albeit with monumental power required when charging with, presumably, custom chargers - you have to get all that energy into the battery in a much-smaller time-frame, right?
Practical benefits are obvious in the computing world, but a quick-charging battery could prove to be particularly beneficial for electric cars, for example. Ceder believes that the new batteries could be on the market within a three-year time-frame, yet there's significant work ahead to make this happen
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