New Battery Technology The lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery is one of the most transformative technologies of the past few decades. These energy storage solutions power the vast majority of portable electronics today, from smartphones to electric cars. While they’ve remained largely the same for several years, recent developments are on the horizon. New battery technology being worked on by several companies has the potential to replace Li-ion and in some cases create new applications.
Here are five emerging battery technologies that could transform the electronics industry the way Li-ion batteries did in the past.
1. Solid-State Batteries
One of the most significant recent advancements in battery technology is the solid-state battery. Unlike conventional Li-ion batteries, solid-state alternatives don’t hold any liquid, instead using a solid electrolyte. As a result, they’re less flammable, hold more power, charge faster and don’t lose their charge as quickly.
Developing these batteries has proved challenging, but several companies are getting close to viable solutions. Volkswagen aims to release a solid-state battery that halves EV charging time by the mid-2020s, with several other automakers targeting similar release dates. As more companies fund research in this area, these more compact, reliable and safer batteries will become widely accessible before long.
2. Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Hydrogen fuel cells aren’t technically batteries, but hydrogen is a power storage medium, not a fuel, so they serve a similar purpose. Fuel cells have powered electronics for astronauts in space for decades, but they’re starting to appear in more consumer applications, too.
Fuel cell-powered trains use 29% less energy than diesel engines and produce no harmful emissions. Similar technologies can power cars, long-haul trucks, ships and even aircraft. Smaller fuel cell systems can act as zero-emissions generators and eventually power handheld devices, pushing the electronics industry toward greater sustainability.
3. Cobalt-Free Li-ion Batteries
Zero-cobalt lithium-ion batteries are another promising sustainable power storage technology. As their name implies, these batteries don’t use cobalt, instead opting for nickel, manganese and aluminum for their cathodes.
Li-ion batteries’ high cobalt content is one of their largest shortcomings, as cobalt is rare and mining it is environmentally destructive. Eliminating this cobalt content allows battery producers to make electronics more affordable and sustainable. Researchers have also found that these batteries’ high nickel content gives them higher storage densities, so they could extend electronics’ battery life, too.
4. Renewable Energy Storage
As renewable energy has grown, battery technology has started to take on a new role. Since wind turbines and solar panels don’t generate electricity on demand, they require energy storage solutions to be practical. Large-scale li-ion batteries meet that need.
The Moss Landing Power Plant in Monterey Bay uses li-ion batteries that can power 300,000 homes for four hours daily by capturing renewable energy. As battery technology becomes more storage-dense and reliable long-term, similar installations could aid large-scale renewable energy expansion. These massive batteries could play a central role in helping many industries move away from fossil fuels.
5. Energy Harvesting
Some new battery systems generate their own electricity instead of simply storing it. Energy harvesting technologies capture power from subtle changes like temperature shifts, physical movement or light. These processes typically don’t produce much electricity, but they can be enough to support a low-power system like an internet of things (IoT) sensor or wearable.
Energy harvesting systems provide a solution for growing IoT power needs. There could be nearly 30 billion connected IoT devices by 2030. Powering those devices through conventional batteries would create massive waste, and plugging them into the grid limits their versatility. Battery systems that can generate small amounts of their own electricity help avoid both issues, enabling greater IoT growth.
New Battery Technology Will Revolutionize Electronics
Portable electronics are inseparable from modern life and business today, so advances in battery technology have widespread implications. As battery technology improves, so will the electronics industry as a whole.
These five technologies represent the most promising developments in the field today. With more research and development, they could redefine the electronics, transportation and energy sectors.