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Batteries are the hidden essential powering our on-the-go daily lives. We rely on them for everything from communicating on our smartphones to powering our cars. On one hand, our demand for battery power is only expanding with our reliance on portable devices. Yet on the other, existing batteries can be costly to replace and potentially harmful to the environment when disposed of. For this reason, researchers are exploring alternatives to the popular rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to make energy consumption more efficient, cost effective and eco-friendly.
One emerging battery technology is the titanium-dioxide battery developed by researchers at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. This battery can recharge up to 70% of capacity in just 2 minutes! Unlike traditional lithium-ion batteries, NTU’s batteries have a titanium-dioxide anode as opposed to the standard graphite. The researchers at NTU have discovered that by manipulating the normally spherical titanium-dioxide into tiny nanotubes, the chemical reaction inside the battery is sped up significantly with the end result being an unprecedented charging time. In addition to its super speedy charging time, NTU claims that one of their improved batteries can last up to 20 years. That’s 10 times longer than the average Li-ion battery’s life. NTU’s technology is beneficial for several reasons. First, titanium-dioxide is abundant and therefore inexpensive, and would cut the cost of batteries. Secondly, its quick charging time not only makes powering up hand-held devices more convenient, but could also revolutionize electric vehicles by making charging stations much more effective. Lastly, the extended life of titanium-dioxide batteries would cut down the amount of toxic waste created by disposing of the excessive amounts of traditional Li-ion batteries.
Another developing battery technology that could boost sustainability and cut energy costs is the combination air and solar-powered battery. This battery was developed by Yiying Wu at Ohio State University and utilizes two distinct reactions that create and store energy. First, this device uses a lithium-oxygen reaction to create electricity inside of the battery. In addition, it also uses a titanium-dioxide panel to absorb and store sunlight. Using the combination of the solar panel to capture light and the lithium-oxygen battery to produce energy would cut the costs of solar energy by 25%, making solar energy production much more affordable and efficient than it is presently.
Although these batteries are not yet available for consumers to purchase on the market, they exemplify a vast improvement from the existing technology. They will ensure a better means of both energy production and consumption as well as saving us time, money and natural resources.
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