Is there an end to battery blues?

INDIATECHONLINE
Published May 8, 2017, 11:28 am IST
Updated May 8, 2017, 11:28 am IST
The Battery is the biggest pain point of mobile phone users. Can industry make them better, rather than bigger?
The mobile phone battery technology, has hardly evolved in the quarter century since  Sony introduced the Lithium-ion rechargeable battery with carbon as the negative pole or cathode and a  compound of Lithium,  the lightest of all metals, as anode.  They have  gone about as far as they can go, and  yes, they tend to explode when overheated.  The time had come to look at other options.
 The mobile phone battery technology, has hardly evolved in the quarter century since Sony introduced the Lithium-ion rechargeable battery with carbon as the negative pole or cathode and a compound of Lithium, the lightest of all metals, as anode. They have gone about as far as they can go, and yes, they tend to explode when overheated. The time had come to look at other options.

The computing power of your phone grows exponentially every year. The latest iPhone has 16 times the power of the first edition. Storage, camera, everything grows  -- and so does our appetite for   watching video.

All this places severe demand on the phone's power source which has grown bigger and bigger: Last year,  brands like Gionee and Asus crossed 5000 mAh.  Then, we demanded that bigger batteries should not translate into bigger phones. So the makers squeezed and squeezed --  to fit these jumbo batteries into  limited space.  We know the result.

 

fast charging

The Perry Mason-like "Case of the Combustible Phone" was  mainly -- but not wholly -- a Samsung story. Phone batteries ignited mainly because they had been squeezed into impossibly small  enclosures, without allowing space for natural expansion with warming.  Happily the craze for jumbo batteries seems to have died down.  But the  challenge remains: Can you make batteries better rather than bigger?

The mobile phone battery technology, has hardly evolved in the quarter century since  Sony introduced the Lithium-ion rechargeable battery with carbon as the negative pole or cathode and a  compound of Lithium,  the lightest of all metals, as anode.  They have  gone about as far as they can go, and  yes, they tend to explode when overheated.  The time had come to look at other options.

Here is a rundown of current  efforts -- none of these are anywhere close to commercial realization:

  • Last week  an announcement by Canada-based McGill University and HydroQuebec,  held out  hope that  batteries  might charge themselves -- from the sun. The researchers  say they have  been able to  create a charging process using light as the energy instead of electricity.  They are now working to  build  the second half, allowing energy produced at the cathode to be stored at the anode. 
  • According to Nikkie Technology Online, by using Sulphur as an electrode, Sony is working towards sharply  increasing the efficiency of  existing batteries and  to boost battery life of mobile phones by almost 40 percent.
  • At Stanford  University, they are betting on aluminium. "We have developed a rechargeable aluminum battery that may replace existing storage devices, such as alkaline and lithium-ion batteries,” said Professor of Chemistry  Hongjei Dai,   "It won't catch fire even if you hammer it."

All these are in the realm of research and no new technology is going to reach our phone batteries in the near future. So what do we do?  

Fast Charges
If we are forced to  recharge every day, at least let us do it faster, in 30 minutes rather than 2-3 hours! Qualcomm has created a technology, QuickCharge,   which is used by Motorola, Samsung, HTC and others.  Oppo has its own technology called Super VOOC Flash Charge.  One Plus phones uses DashCharge  and has coined a motto we can empathise with: Less time in the socket, more time in the pocket.

Finally,  there is always the option of carrying a power bank. Many of these now come with a solar panel, so you don't have to look to an electrical socket to keep the bank charged. 

Sorry, there are no  breakthroughs  imminent, if you  are  looking for  batteries that are  light and long lasting and safe. This is a work in progress  and we have to wait -- and keep charging!

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