The lithium ion batteries in your mobile devices are inherently limited by the “ion” part of their name; they can safely use lithium only in the part of the cell that supplies ions, wasting a lot of potential energy. It’s good news, then, that researchers at Stanford have developed a new lithium battery that could last for much, much longer. The technique allows for denser, more efficient lithium in the battery’s anode (which discharges electrons) by using a nanoscopic carbon shield that keeps the unstable chemical in check — uncontrolled, it can quickly shorten the device’s lifespan.
The result is a power pack that lasts considerably longer on charge, won’t decay quickly and remains relatively safe. Stanford’s Steven Chu (the former US Secretary of Energy) reckons that a cellphone equipped with these advanced lithium cells could have two to three times the battery life, and automakers could build cheap electric cars that still offer a healthy driving range. There’s more engineering work required before you see any shipping products, but it’s entirely possible that future portable gadgets will run for more than a day on a charge without resorting to giant battery packs.