We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Smartphone Battery Breakthrough Coming ... In 3 to 5 Years

The wait may be long but the promised payoff is good: Week-long phone battery life and 15-minute recharge times.

Although iPhone 4S battery drain was a real problem, it also brought up the need for a smartphone battery breakthrough--something so significant that you'll never have to worry about getting through the day on a single charge, even if the battery's not behaving properly.

The good news is that a true breakthrough is on the way, and promises week-long battery life and 15-minute recharge times. The bad news is that this technology is still three to five years away from the market.

Researchers at Northwestern University worked with the same lithium-ion batteries found in today's smartphones. But by layering clusters of silicon in between the graphene sheets that make up one side of the battery--known as the anode--the researchers were able to pack in a lot more lithium.

Scientists have already tried using silicon as a replacement for carbon-based graphene sheets but, in previous approaches, it expanded and contracted too dramatically, causing fragmentation that reduced capacity. Apparently the sandwiching of silicon between graphene solves that problem.

The researchers also poked tiny holes in the graphene, providing a shortcut for the lithium to travel through and be stored by a reaction with the silicon. Essentially, the unique use of silicon is solving two problems at once.

This breakthrough sounds particularly interesting to me because it's still based on lithium ion batteries. When I last ranted about smartphone battery life when the iPhone 4S faced problems, I pointed to new approaches like kinetic charging, photovoltaic cells or lithium-sulfur batteries. But Northwestern researchers aren't working on entirely new methods. They're just drastically improving the type of batteries that smartphones use already. Let's hope it gets to the real world in time for the iPhone 6S.

Follow Jared on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ for even more tech news and commentary.

IDG UK Sites

LG G4 Note UK release date and specification rumours: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 killer could be the LG 3......

IDG UK Sites

In defence of BlackBerrys

IDG UK Sites

Why we should reserve judgement on Apple ditching Helvetica in OS X/iOS for the Apple Watch's San...

IDG UK Sites

Retina 3.3GHz iMac 27in preview: Apple cuts £400 off Retina iMac with new model