Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU) have developed a new battery that can be recharged up to 70 percent in only 2 minutes time. The new battery technology also has a longer projected lifespan of over 20 years.

NTU Professor Chen and team in front of battery test rig.  Click image for the largest view.  Image Courtesy: NYU Singapore.

NTU Professor Chen and team in front of battery test rig. Click image for the largest view. Image Courtesy: NYU Singapore.

The NTU scientist’s next generation of lithium-ion batteries could enable electric vehicles to charge 20 times faster than the current technology. For electric vehicles the technology will also be able to do away with frequent battery replacements. The new battery will be able to endure more than 10,000 charging cycles – 20 times more than the current 500 cycles of today’s batteries.

This could mean the technology is the next big thing in battery technology. The breakthrough presents a wide-ranging impact on many industries, especially for electric vehicles which are currently inhibited by long recharge times of over 4 hours and the limited lifespan of the batteries.

NTU’s scientists replaced the traditional graphite used for the anode (negative pole) in lithium-ion batteries with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide, an abundant, cheap and safe material found in the soil. It is commonly used as a food additive or in sunscreen lotions to absorb harmful ultraviolet rays or as the coloring agent in white paint.

Naturally found in a spherical shape, the NTU scientists developed a simple method to turn titanium dioxide particles into tiny nanotubes that are a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. The nanostructure is what helps to speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for super fast charging.

Invented by Associate Professor Chen Xiaodong from the School of Materials Science and Engineering at NTU Singapore, the science behind the formation of the new titanium dioxide gel was published in the latest issue of Advanced Materials.

NTU professor Rachid Yazami, who was the co-inventor of the lithium-graphite anode 34 years ago that is used in most lithium-ion batteries today offers a third party opinion that Prof Chen’s invention is the next big leap in battery technology. “While the cost of lithium-ion batteries has been significantly reduced and its performance improved since Sony commercialized it in 1991, the market is fast expanding towards new applications in electric mobility and energy storage,” said Professor Yazami.

Professor Yazami also added, “There is still room for improvement and one such key area is the power density – how much power can be stored in a certain amount of space – which directly relates to the fast charge ability. Ideally, the charge time for batteries in electric vehicles should be less than 15 minutes, which Prof Chen’s nanostructured anode has proven to do.”

Prof Yazami, who is Prof Chen’s colleague at NTU Singapore, is not part of the research project and is currently developing new types of batteries for electric vehicle applications at the Energy Research Institute at NTU.

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. But Professor Chen’s new cross-linked titanium dioxide nanotube-based electrodes eliminate the need for these additives and can pack more energy into the same amount of space.

Professor Chen said, “Manufacturing this new nanotube gel is very easy. 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.”

The research team will be applying for a Proof-of-Concept grant to build a large-scale battery prototype. The patented technology has already attracted interest from the industry. The technology is currently being licensed to a company and Prof Chen expects that the new generation of fast-charging batteries will hit the market in two years’ time. It holds a lot of potential in overcoming the longstanding power issues related to electro-mobility.

Professor Chen hits the main point with, “With our nanotechnology, electric cars would 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. Equally important, we can now drastically cut down the waste generated by disposed batteries, since our batteries last ten times longer than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries.”

Even more important is the long-life of the new battery also means drivers save on the cost of a battery replacement, which could cost over $5,000 US.

This all sounds too good to be true, but this team is a top rung research group with a record of pressing into practical problems garnering practical results.

A 20 year battery lifetime would offer the electric vehicle market a huge boost.


1 Comment so far

  1. MattMusson on October 14, 2014 7:36 AM

    I don’t mean to be negative. But, it seems like every month someone comes along with a battery breakthrough that is based upon nano-technology that is not commercially feasible.

    I hope this team is able to build their full scale prototype and prove my skepticism is misplaced.

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