The Evolution of Batteries

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 Beginning

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

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.

What’s Next?

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?


Great article, can’t wait to read it fully. Admittedly running to work now.

One quick point that I don’t believe was mentioned is Safety.

These batteries are scary, what some Li-ion batts have showed us is that we have to be diligent in ensuring safety of end users and those around them.

I want to thank Anker for taking time to make quality products without trying to satisfy the bottom line.

Cheers! Excited to see what you guys do next!



Very interesting article. Thank you for taking us all to the new level of battery power. I wouldn’t trust my electronics to any other brand then Anker. I’ve been using Anker for as long as I can remember and love all of them. I can’t wait to see what else Anker has in store for us all. Thank you Anker for taking the time, energy (pun intended), research, testing, and overall work put into making these incredible batteries that has kept our electronics going. :smiley:


Nice article! We’ve come a long way, but the future of Alfa and Nanobatteries looks exciting!

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I want the future to be far higher energy density. There’s no point in being able to recharge a phone in a few minutes if you have to do it every few hours. What everyone wants is the ability to use their devices for many days without having to recharge it once or twice a day. The last I read, lithium-ion cells had the same energy density as a chocolate bar. This needs to be greatly improved.

Thanks for the detailed post though. I am always keen to hear about new battery tech, even if it never seems to make it to market.

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@CraigW I believe you are in the UK, so the 3rd episode of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures mentions battery technology in quite some length, but in terms for the age of the audience.

Basically the problem is safety. There are technologies which are denser but its safety issue right now. Give it time…

What I do:

  • go with a phone with replaceable battery, it is the fastest way to “recharge” (say 10 seconds) to 100% with something about the size of two creditcards. Sad, but it is actually the best answer right now given faster chargers are bigger and then there’s the cable. Cheaper+faster+smaller than any Quickcharge or equivalent.
  • carry Anker Powercore (for the event so that’s Powercore+ Mini, Powercore Slim, Powercore 10000 depending on duration off-grid),
  • carry a non-Anker really small charger (Anker’s are bigger but more amps, over-kill for just a phone).
  • ride bike with USB-A output off dynohub.
  • longest off-grid, carry (non Anker, as Anker’s has a useless pouch) 19W solar panel.
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Ideally, totally forgotten about, like in say Star Trek where they carry gadgets around and barely any “Flat” or “recharge” type discussions. I never see a cable.

Ideally therefore you’re carrying a device and it simply never needs recharging, the internal battery needs and its recharging is a non-issue, forgotten about, like Oxygen is taken for granted in every place which isn’t sealed from the outside.

To do this truly seamlessly would involve wireless transfer to be pervasive but under current physics that’s a challenge as electromagnetic power drops to the square of distance. So you’re talking an awful lot of different technologies converging, like robotic controlled lasers who track you and point energy at you as you move (without blinding you or you noticing).

We need more wireless charging phones built-in, but that never really happened and metal cases in new phones are defeating the idea. I not bought a wireless charging device since about 2014.

Another is wireless mats built into many more places like office desks, bedside cabinets, kitchen surfaces, etc.

To survive the time between these yet-to-be-invented pervasive wireless recharging, we’d need phone batteries to last days, ideally weeks, which would require a substantial internal gadget battery density to go up at least one order of magnitude.

However, back to the right now, I never get a flat phone or tablet and stuck waiting, because I always carry something to get me out of the problem, if I’m moving for more than a day I’m usually with some kind of Anker Powercore. So really, all that this new wondrous technology will likely solve for me is remembering to pack a few items which are charged, which isn’t that much of a burden as I must also pack food+water+clothing and unless Anker is planning on making us immortal also then energy for our gadgets is a subset of energy for our bodies.

I mean, a Powercore 10000 + cable is about the size of a palm of my hand and gets me to 2 days of phone life, it’s hardly that bad now is it?

Good article. I would like to see more solar charging options in the future. Let’s face it, there are some out there but they can be hit and miss. What a time to be alive!

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I noticed no mention of LiPo which inspired me to research on my own. (I learned something today from that and this article so thanks :slight_smile: )

My first experience with LiPo’s was an exploding rc helicopter that caught my living room coffee table on fire and ever since I only charge R/C LiPo’s outside in a cinder block. That was 9-10 years ago and I received a visit from a real live CPSC investigator who took my story, took pictures and paid me so they could take my helo and charger.

My 2nd experience with LiPo’s is a very swollen and failed battery in a Smart Doorbell which I can’t name due to an NDA. I believe this one was close to exploding as well which is odd to me because they usually require some sort of impact or bad charging practice to swell. I guess luckily it had enough expansion space inside doorbell where it didn’t get pierced or build up too much pressure and rupture. That one actually scared me more than the helicopter because it could have failed at anytime and could have burned my house down.
I know technology has greatly improved on them but am wondering if Anker is looking at using LiPo’s for anything?

Solar is an entirely different topic, it isn’t battery, its, errr, solar.

Solar’s problems are improving slowly too. I recommend this video and going back through their explanations.

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A fantastic read!

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Very nice little read.

As for what I would like batteries to become? In the book News from Gardenia, all the portable tech is powered wirelessly. No need to plug anything in. Sounds like bliss!

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Nice history lesson. Thanks!

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I as well had a LiPo go up in flames but they make my RC so fast that I can’t stop using them. I was fortunate to be using a safe bag while charging and that’s when it happened. I store my LiPo’s in an ammo box!


Excellent article and info…thanks Anker!

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Awesome article learned a lot! Looking forward to the future

Just recently purchased a PowerCore 13000 to recharge handheld devices. What type of cells are in the 13000? I read that the TSA doesn’t allow lithium-ion batteries on board aircraft. I couldn’t tell if that is in checked baggage, carry-on or both. Is PowerCore a TSA approved device?

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Can’t wait for the future!

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I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Battery bonanza: From frogs’ legs to mobiles and electric cars -

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