One of the challenges of wireless gadgetry in the age of 4G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is battery life. While battery technology hasn’t advanced too much in terms of the amount of juice it can store in a small form factor, the longevity issue is being addressed from the power-consumption side of the equation, such as chips that consume less power.
(See for example the power-efficient Bluetooth Low Energy standard embedded in this Casio prototype Bluetooth watch – on show at CES 2011 in Vegas right now – with a promised two-year battery-life.)
However, battery technology is advancing in other ways. One is wireless charging. The other is getting batteries to recharge faster.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute claim to have cracked the latter with a new type of nanomaterial that tackles the chief limitation of recharging speed (i.e. the faster you discharge and recharge a conventional Li-ion battery, the faster it deteriorates and eventually fails).
The new material, called a "nanoscoop" due to its resemblance to an ice cream cone, is engineered to take that stress.
A paper from the Rensselaer team, led by Professor Nikhil Koratkar, demonstrates the ability of a nanoscoop electrode to be charged and discharged 40 to 60 times faster than conventional battery anodes over a hundred continuous charge/discharge cycles.
Which basically means you could recharge a smartphone, tablet or laptop in a matter of minutes rather than hours. The same technology could also have major implications for electric car batteries.
The chief limitation right now, reports Physorg, is the relatively low total mass of the electrode, which is why the next step for the research team is either figuring out how to grow longer nanoscoops with greater mass, or developing a way to stack nanoscoop layers.