A newly identified group of materials could help recharge batteries faster, raising the possibility of smartphones that charge fully in minutes and accelerating the adoption of major clean technologies like electric cars and solar energy, say researchers.
The speed at which a battery can be charged depends partly upon the rate at which positively charged particles, called lithium ions, can move towards a negatively charged electrode where they are then stored. A limiting factor in making “super” batteries that charge rapidly is the speed at which these lithium ions migrate, usually through ceramic materials.
There are many different battery technologies, all of which do involve ions*. Most of which do not involve lithium. Thus lithium ions – despite being part of one battery technology – are not common to all battery technologies.
Now, researchers at the University of Cambridge have identified a group of materials called niobium tungsten oxides through which lithium ions can move at astonishingly high rates, meaning much faster charging batteries.
Well, yes, that is interesting.
Another advantage of these alternative materials is that they are cheap and straightforward to make. “These oxides are easy to make and don’t require additional chemicals or solvents,” said Griffith.
That’s interestingly wrong. A major source of Nb being that coltan which produces the Ta for mobile phone capacitors. You know, all that blood minerals stuff all over again? Yes, there are other sources but still. And it’s not cheap. The Ti (note, the oxide, not the metal) is hundreds of $ per tonne, yup, that’s cheap. We can divert the stuff we use in white paint if we desire. But the Nb? Definitely dollars per pound, perhaps tens of $ per lb. Not exactly what we do call cheap.
And if we’re to get it from Ta containing minerals (not an absolute necessity) we’ve got significant processing pollution (using hydrofluoric acid is not for the faint of heart and yes, we do have to) and again significant radioactive residue (there’s always Th in them thar hills).
Oh, and reprocessing Nb and Ti mixtures isn’t easy. OK, my experience is with the metals but still….
*OK, possible to argue here but good enough.
Ah, yes, I have mixed Ti and W, haven’t I? Sigh, still, this was worth what you paid for it then.