MIT scientists charged up

MIT scientists have developed a battery technology that might one day allow people to charge their cellphones in 10 seconds or a drained plug-in car battery in mere minutes – reshaping the way such gadgets are integrated into our lives.

Scientists tweaked a lithium-ion battery by, in essence, creating access to the equivalent of on-ramps so that ions can easily enter an energy highway within the material. The advance allows the batteries to charge in seconds and discharge about 100 times faster than current lithium-ion batteries, according to Gerbrand Ceder, a materials science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who led the work published in today’s issue of the journal Nature.

“If we made a cellphone battery that could charge in 30 seconds, I think people would change their lifestyles. . . . You might settle for a smaller battery, and you could almost stand by and sip your coffee and it’s done,” Ceder said. “That becomes a behavior modifier, and that’s why I’m excited about it.”

Ceder began the research to solve a mystery: Lithium-ion batteries store lots of energy, but charge and discharge relatively slowly, as positively charged ions slowly migrate across the battery material to create a current. In earlier research, Ceder’s laboratory found that lithium ions can actually move quickly through the battery material, suggesting that something else was slowing their commute across the battery to a crawl.

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