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Your next phone could charge in milliseconds with Drexel’s battery breakthrough

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A new research could help phones to charge in milliseconds. Here it is what Drexel’s battery breakthrough is about.

Mobile phones are very important in today’s society. They keep us connected with friends and the services we depend on, such as banks, smart home hubs, and connected cars. There’s only one issue: they keep running on batteries. But we might never have to worry about spending hours charging our devices if nanomaterials researchers at Drexel University have their way.

The key is MXene, a two-dimensional material which has two sections: a hydrogel (a gel with a fluid water segment) and an oxide metal. It’s structurally dense enough to cover radiation and filter water, as the researchers at Drexel showed in 2011. But at the same time it’s very conductive, making it a good candidate for battery membranes.

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That’s thanks to MXene’s chemical makeup, which optimizes the flow of electrodes — the places where energy is stored in batteries for charging — through it. Batteries hold ions in ports called “redox active sites” to hold a charge, and the number of ports from a battery is directly proportional to the amount of charge it can hold.

While the battery membranes of today have limited paths for ions to get to ports, MXene creates multiple paths for the ions to travel through. And MXene’s high conductivity helps the ions to move along quickly, ratcheting up the effective recharge rate.

“In traditional batteries […] ions have a torturous path toward charge storage ports, which not only slows down everything, but it also creates a situation where very few ions actually reach their destination at fast charging rates,” Maria Lukatskaya, a researcher on the team, said. “The ideal electrode architecture would be something like ions moving to the ports via multi-lane, high-speed ‘highways,’ instead of taking single-lane roads. Our macroporous electrode design achieves this goal, which allows for rapid charging — on the order of a few seconds or less.”

The end result might be a battery that takes only “tens of milliseconds” to fully recharge instead of tens of minutes or even a few hours. Yuri Gogotsi, a materials science and engineering professor, said that MXene could help creating better laptop batteries and electric car batteries. “If we start using low-dimensional and electronically conducting materials as battery electrodes, we can make batteries working much, much faster than today,” he said. “Eventually, appreciation of this fact will lead us to car, laptop, and cell phone batteries capable of charging at much higher rates — seconds or minutes rather than hours.”

According to Gogotsi, it will take at least three years to introduce Mxene into mass-manufactured products like cell phone batteries.

Taabish Khalani

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