US researchers claim they have made a technological breakthrough that could shrink the size of batteries by 10 times yet offer the same power.
The University of Illinois team believes the new type of battery could revolutionise the way consumer electronics and vehicles are powered, according to the BBC.
According to a research paper published in the Nature Communications journal, “3D electrodes” can be used to build “microbatteries” that can be recharged 1,000 times faster than competing technology.
Battery advances have so far failed to keep pace with miniaturisation in electronics, but the researchers say their innovation could change that.
The battery electrodes have small intertwined fingers that reach into each other, which enables a battery with a very high surface, yet an extremely small overall volume.
At the same time, the intertwining gets the two halves of the battery very close together so the ions and electrons do not have far to flow.
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The researchers believe the technology is scalable, which means car batteries could become 10 times smaller and cars could be jump-started with the battery in a mobile phone.
However, battery experts have said it could prove difficult to bring the technology to market because of challenges in avoiding short-circuits, scaling up the manufacturing process and addressing safety issues.
In recent months, Lithium-cobalt oxide batteries used in Boeing’s Dreamliner jets have proved problematic for the aircraft maker because they have plagued by self-combustion issues.
In June 2011, HP extended a 2009 recall of laptop lithium-ion batteries in some HP and Compaq notebooks because of fears they could overheat and cause fires.
Despite these challenges, the Illinois researchers hope to use the microbattery to power electronic equipment before the end of the year.
They admit that safety could become an issue in larger batteries because the current electrolyte is a combustible liquid, but they plan to switch to a safer polymer-based electrolyte.