We’ve reached a point where how we store energy is almost as important as how we create it. Batteries have revolutionized the way we live and battery power is the foundation of our mobile lives. Anker specializes in providing increasingly compact and powerful portable chargers, so you can keep your phone with you and powered on at all times, but even these devices have a high capacity battery at their core.
Do you ever think about how batteries evolved or what they will be like in the future?
If so, then keep reading.
● The Past
We may think of batteries as a fairly modern invention. After all, electricity has only been made widely accessible in the past 200 years. But there are theories that ancient man not only utilized electricity, but stored it in batteries. A pot found in Baghdad with an iron tube and copper filament inside is argued to actually be an ancient battery. If we go that far back, though, the past will be the entirety of this post. Let’s focus instead on the evolution of the modern battery:
The first battery, by modern standards, was the Voltaic Pile. It was invented by an Italian physicist named Alessandro Volta and used zinc and copper for electrodes with brine-soaked paper as an electrolyte. This was the first electrical battery that could provide a continuous current to a circuit. However, electrolyte leaking caused short-circuits and the battery-life was very short, an hour’s worth at best. It was only really useful for separating elements and was primarily used in scientific experimentation or producing small amounts of pure metals. There are online instructions for making simple versions which can power an LED bulb.
About 40 years later John Frederic Daniell invented the Daniell cell. It used a copper pot filled with a copper sulfate solution, which was in turn immersed in an earthenware container filled with sulfuric acid. Its electrical potential became the base unit for voltage (1 volt). It was longer lasting, safer, and less corrosive than the Voltaic Pile. Unfortunately it was also really big, would break after a certain number of uses, and had a short battery life-span.
Rechargeable batteries are Anker’s forte and their history begins with the lead-acid battery. Invented in 1859 by Gaston Planté, it used a lead anode and cathode and sulfuric acid. It was reusable, cheap, and supplied high current. The problem was that it was also large and heavy. Additionally, it contained sulfuric acid which could be dangerous. A version of it is still in use today as the starter battery in automobiles.
The next innovation paved the way for modern batteries. The nickel-cadmium battery was created in 1899 by Waldemar Jungner in Sweden. It had a higher energy density than lead-acid batteries and could be recharged several more times. However, they were significantly more expensive than their lead-acid predecessors. Also, cadmium is toxic, so the popular nickel battery today is a nickel metal-hydride battery which uses a hydrogen-absorbing alloy instead. Now, nickel batteries are mostly used in power tools and digital cameras because they are lighter and have a higher energy density than nickel-cadmium batteries and lithium batteries have a shelf life unrelated to charging (also, they sometimes explode in high-heat).
● The Present
Battery technology has come a long way since the days of the Voltaic Pile. Today we most frequently deal with alkaline, nickel-metal hydride, and lithium-ion batteries. There is always a lot of talk about the next wave of battery technology and how it will revolutionize the way that we store energy. Yet, for all of the hype we still use batteries that were invented in 1989 (nickel metal-hydride), 1985 (lithium-ion), and the 1950s (alkaline). What’s going on?
Basically, these older technologies are constantly being improved and refined.
Alkaline batteries are used in regular household devices. They’re compact and reasonably powerful and rechargeable versions exist. Some manufacturers have begun adding lithium to increase performance and more recent innovations are directed at making them safer and more eco-friendly. Even the battery icon on our phones uses their shape because alkaline batteries are what most people automatically think of when you say the word “battery.”
But you’re probably more interested in lithium-ion batteries. The first prototype was released in 1985 and lithium-ion batteries went commercial in 1991.They have high energy density and a number of specific cathode formulations for various applications. They have huge energy densities and can be made with moldable casing (previous types required a metal shell). So they can be smaller and made into shapes that are ideal for mobile devices. Unfortunately they can be volatile and they require a microchip and a vent to manage temperatures to prevent overheating which makes them expensive.
What About Anker?
Anker primarily uses lithium-ion batteries in our products along with premium materials to ensure maximum capacity, efficiency and safety. Moreover, we are constantly tweaking battery efficiency, safety features, and battery life so you get the fastest, safest charge for your phone.
● The Future
This is where it gets exciting… and complicated. There is a lot of technology on the horizon so it’s difficult to say with certainty what the future of charging will hold. However, promising innovations seem to break down into a few key categories.
1. Longer Battery Life
Most battery producers, including Anker, are currently working to increase the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries to extend battery life. Researchers, on the other hand, are experimenting with other materials to increase storage capacity.
Alfa batteries are aluminum-air batteries that have 40 times the capacity of lithium-ion and recharge using water. They should appear in cars first but could also be used for powering mobile devices.
Nanobatteries also show a lot of potential. They are 80,000 times smaller than a human hair and have three times the capacity of lithium-ion batteries. Charging takes just 12 minutes and they last thousands of cycles.
2. Faster (Re)Charging
Batteries that can charge and/or recharge quickly would make the inconvenience of limited capacities a thing of the past. There are batteries being developed that promise to fully charge and/or recharge in mere minutes.
Aluminum graphite batteries are flexible, long lasting, and charge incredibly quickly.
Unfortunately they only hold about half as much power as current lithium batteries but they fully recharge in roughly a minute, which more than makes up for the limited capacity.
Nano “yolk” batteries are a type of battery created by scientists at MIT that have triple the capacity of lithium-ion and fully charge in just 6-minutes. Further, they don’t degrade rapidly over time giving them a longer shelf life. The best part is that production is inexpensive so there is hope that they might be available relatively soon.
3. Alternate Energy Sources
Many companies are already making chargers to harness renewable energy to power devices, just as Anker does with the PowerPort Solar series. The future may be even better as researchers are looking into batteries that charge using wireless signals, ambient sound, friction, photosynthesis, and more.
Some of these technologies are already developed but aren’t consistently safe enough to be implemented, while mass production of some would require a total overhaul of the battery industry. Of course cost will always be a factor and certain innovations are prohibitively expensive so there’s no way to know which way the industry will go.
In the meantime, Anker is committed to continuing to provide superior batteries and, as technology develops, you can bet we’ll pass the benefits to you.
What do you want the future of battery technology to be?