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The changing science of batteries getting shit

Science is hard, too hard. I don’t want to understand science, I just want to know it works and helps to make our lives better. When it comes to those little buggers that power pretty much everything in our lives, from phones to computers to cars, I don’t need to understand how they work, just that they do and that I can watch hours and hours of uninterrupted goat remixes of pop songs.

Everyone has noticed that the performance of their batteries gets worse and worse over time. After a couple of years of owning the same phone, we all complain that ‘the battery drops quicker than when I first had it blah blah blah’. Well the reason for this (warning for some basic science here) goes a bit like this;

Li-ion batteries work by the movement of charged Lithium ions from one side of the battery to another, from the cathode to the anode. This movement produces energy which powers your device. When we plug it in to charge, what we’re basically doing is pushing those ions back over to the other side of the battery and giving them their charge back ready to be used again. Over lots and lots of charges, these Lithium ions will go through different chemical reactions and form electrolytes (like in Lucozade or Gatorade for our American readers), these pretty much trap the lithium ions and mean they can no longer move from one side to another. The fewer ions that can do this the less charge you have.

But this may be about to change, or at least not happen so quickly. A team from the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST), has developed a new material which unsurprisingly has a stupid sciency name, bis-imino-acenaphthenequinone-paraphenylene (BP) copolymer. I know, what the fudge is this word? Nice one science, you bitch. This material will help prevent the graphite binder in the negative part of the battery from breaking down over time, another cause of loss of power.

In short, because I’ve been going on for a bit and you should probably find out what all this technical nonsense means for you. This new material allows a battery to maintain 95% capacity for more than 1,700 charge-discharge cycles. In other words, it allows a lithium-ion battery to be fully recharged daily for almost five years, and possibly even longer. Not too shabby.

All this is great news for our phones and laptops which will be able to live longer and happier lives and won’t need to be sent to recycling earlier, hopefully meaning we won’t need to mine as much lithium as previously. Possibly the biggest benefit will be in e-vehicles, where the longer life of the battery will mean they will be able to actually reach close to their maximum ranger for longer, this should help convince people that petrol is shit and e-vehicles are the future. Hats off to those clever science nerds and their clever science work!

Read more here about the new material and if you’re interested in understanding batteries and how they work (or are a masochist) click here.

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