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New ‘yolk and shell’ battery could charge smartphones in minutes

A new form of battery technology is being developed that could see smartphones charged in just a few minutes.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in partnership with China’s Tsinghua University, have designed a “yolk and shell” battery that overcomes existing design flaws.

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The lithium-ion batteries currently used in smartphones and other consumer gadgets lose charge over time because they expand and contract during each charging cycle, placing strain on their charging capacity. However, by using a protective shell made up of nanoparticles, the anode inside can expand and contract without causing itself damage.

It has also enabled researchers to replace the graphite traditionally used for the anode with aluminium, which is both cheaper and more efficient. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that aluminium anodes can store more than five times as many ampere-hours-per gram than graphite, but because they expand and contract at a faster rate they are usually more unstable. The yolk and shell approach helps to alleviate this problem.

The design should prove inexpensive to manufacture and can be produced on a mass scale. It is already at the testing stage and MIT claims that it is “quite close to being ready” for use in smartphones and similar devices.

David Lou, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, was not involved with the battery’s development but has high hopes for the technology.

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“These yolk-shell particles show very impressive performance in lab-scale testing,” he said. “To me, the most attractive point of this work is that the process appears simple and scalable. Simple things make real impact in the battery field.”