Fast Charging Battery Research: Hot, Super High-Tech & Wowing!

Ever since mobile phones became popular, the importance of rechargeable electric batteries has been growing steadily worldwide. According to Wikipedia, in 2013, there were an estimated 6.8 billion mobile phones in use globally (including smartphones) and 97 out of every 100 people in the world owned at least one mobile phone. These figures include some of the poorest among us. While a large number of users do not go beyond making mere voice calls (and infrequent text messaging), the availability of free, excellent, easy-to-use ‘apps’ (or applications), that grow in variety and number by the day, is gradually drawing many in this category to become ‘core’ mobile phone users. Many people that use PCs as their primary computing device today, aware that PCs will cede their position of preeminence in the computing world soon, are also beginning to switch to smartphones. These factors are expected to lead to a 35% increase in the number of smartphone users by 2020 (or 9.2 billion users, globally).

As smartphones become thinner, lighter, smarter, use larger displays and so on, they are also turning more power hungry. Thus, the critical need for high-capacity, super-fast charging batteries that may be recharged a large number of times before being trashed, for the success of future smartphones.

There are other important applications as well, that depend on fast charging batteries for their well-being. One is the much-feted electric vehicle (EV) industry. Users expect battery recharge time to be comparable to the time it would take to fill fuel at a gas station today i.e. of the order of about 4-5 minutes. Another highly important application is in smart grids – those intelligent electric power management stations, where inputs of electricity and outflows to users are managed. Large-capacity, fast charging/ draining batteries are required to store surplus energy (whenever input exceeds demand) and release it whenever there is a deficit. Somewhat less critical, nonetheless important, are fast charging batteries used in smart watches, smart homes and personal health devices (PHDs)

A couple of years ago, it had become unmistakably clear that Lithium-ion batteries (the best battery technology in use presently) would be grossly inadequate for future requirements. There is such a wide gap between Li-ion technology and the projected battery of the future, that it became quite obvious that nothing short of a “quantum leap” (or revolution) in battery technology would suffice. That is why, while it hadn’t yet come out in the news, feverish and frenzied research had been launched in many leading University & Corporate R&D centres to find that exalted battery technology of the future with features such as: charge time in the order of a few minutes or even seconds (wow!), lower weight (going all the way down to half in the case of EV batteries), greater capacity, safety (no electric fires and explosions reminiscent of the 2013 Boeing 787 mishaps to expect!), significantly lower cost, easy handling and cycle times in thousands and ten-thousands!

To think of achieving a “quantum leap” in technology in 1-2 years’ time would have left many in the scientific community, dumbfounded in the recent past. But now, things have changed! Man, having advanced the frontiers of scientific knowledge by unprecedented leaps&bounds in recent times, today’s researchers, sitting at the very pinnacles of scientific knowledge, seem to offer highly promising solutions at the mere drop of a hat!

So here’s a line-up of the most promising technologies that are undergoing research at the time of writing this article. (Note: Fast charging battery research is currently flooded with many alternate technologies competing for the No.1 spot. Being so numerous, the author has not attempted to present an exhaustive list. Instead, the list below represents the best of the whole lot, in his opinion.)

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