It lacks the cachet of a Cold War arms race, yet the current battle for battery technology supremacy is every bit as heated. The army with superior battery technology will be at the front of the pack, as will any company that can best the competition by providing a reliable cell phone charge. Forget the power grid. The future for power for these purposes is in the battery.
Traditional batteries have an electrolyte solution encased between an anode and a cathode. When a circuit is completed, the electrolyte solution undergoes a chemical reaction that causes an electrical difference between the cathode (+) and the anode (-). The solution has a limited life and will run out of the ability to create the chemical reaction. Clearly, these batteries would have to be very large and very heavy if they were to power a weapons system, or your cell phone for that matter.
Lithium batteries are rechargeable batteries that pack a punch. They are lighter than other batteries and hold a large charge in relation to their size. They don’t have to completely discharge before they can recharge, and they can be recharged hundreds of time. Sounds good but they degrade over time and are sensitive to high temperatures, and when they fail, they can burst into flames – hence the exploding battery in the pocket syndrome. They also require a computer system to manage the battery. All of this makes them a not-so-great choice for weapons systems and a so-so choice for cell phones.
The newest batteries are solid-state batteries. These have no liquid and that, according to The Telegraph, takes care of leakage and allows them to be miniaturized. By being so much smaller than other batteries, more of them can be used in a tight space. They also are energy dense – nearly 50 percent better than lithium-ion batteries.
The newest battery tech is bringing glass-coated sulfur particles to the lithium-ion battery. These beads help solve a fundamental shortcoming of lithium-ion batteries, the tendency to get “dirty” and lose their capacity. If the technology around these glass-coated particles can be perfected, the result will be a battery with more power and durability than any current technology.
So when you’re wondering what it will take to make a cell phone battery that holds a charge as long as you’d like, remember that governments around the world are working to solve a far greater problem. They are working to create a superior battery to provide the power for ships, weapons, and encampments. The side product may just be the answer to your cell phone dreams.