Lithium ion battery research aims to cut hours off a full charge
12 March 2009

Electric cars could be set for a breakthrough on recharging times, if the results of research work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) can be successfully upscaled.

According to an article published on the website of scientific journal Nature, MIT researchers Byoungwoo Kang and Gerbrand Ceder have developed a set of lithium ion battery cells that can be fully charged in a matter of seconds.

The same technology could, in theory, fully charge a laptop in around a minute. Electric cars – which currently take up to 10 hours to charge – could be fully recharged in around an hour.

Lithium ion batteries generate current by the flow of lithium ions through an electrolyte, from an electrode to a cathode. Recharging reverses this process.

In current systems, the lithium ion batteries take so long to charge because the lithium ions take a long time to move through the electrolyte. The key to the new process is that the lithium iron phosphate used in the cathode is coated with lithium phosphate glass. This substance is an efficient lithium conductor, and so helps to dramatically speed up the charging process.

Matt Rigby

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