Future Tech

New Samsung Breakthrough Could Nearly Double Battery Capacity

Brad Merrill 29-06-2015

Samsung, with help from researchers and universities in South Korea, has developed a new technology that could nearly double the capacity of lithium-ion batteries. This breakthrough has the potential to make serious waves in consumer electronics Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Every year, exhibitions around the world present new high tech devices; expensive toys that come with many promises. They aim to make our lives easier, more fun, super connected, and of course they are status... Read More as well as electric cars 6 Electric Cars You Can Actually Afford Think you can't afford an electric car? Wrong. These six cars show how affordable electric cars have become. Read More — two industries that desperately need better battery technology.


The Battery Of The Future?

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are one of the most common types of batteries used for consumer electronics like smartphones and tablets, though they are also increasingly used for electric cars and various other applications. They were cutting-edge technology when they were invented — back in the nineties — but plenty has changed in the last twenty years.

In particular, we do far more with our mobile devices than we ever have before. When you carry an iPhone or an Android handset, you’re carrying a fully-functional computer that’s more powerful than former supercomputers How Do Smartphones Compare To Supercomputers Of The Past? Most of us carry a smartphone around in our pocket without really thinking twice about just how impressive it is. Read More in your pocket. These massively power-hungry machines are running on the same tech we used to use to power our walkmans. So to say we need to upgrade our battery technology would be an understatement.


Samsung is working on doing just that, according to a paper published in Nature. The company has managed to significantly increase Li-ion battery capacity by using anodes made of silicon — the same material typically associated with chips and electronics — instead of graphite.

Silicon by itself tends to cause problems, due to a fluctuation in particle size between charging and discharging cycles. To get around this, Samsung and its researchers developed an innovative coating process in which graphene is grown directly on the silicon in layers that contain it but also allow for its expansion.


The paper explains:

“The graphene layers anchored onto the silicon surface accommodate the volume expansion of silicon via a sliding process between adjacent graphene layers. When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities of 972 and 700 Wh l^(-1) at first and 200th cycle, respectively, 1.8 and 1.5 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries.”

The wavy lines in the diagram below are layers of graphene on a silicon nanoparticle.


With this new technique, Samsung managed to create a new type of battery that offers nearly double (1.8x) the energy density of regular Li-ion batteries, trailing off to 1.5x energy density after 200 charges. Even after 200 charges, the new technology boasts a significant improvement over what the market has to offer today. With that said, more testing to required to determine whether these promising numbers hold up over a realistic battery lifespan.


When Can We Put This To Use?

Going forward, this research could have significant implications for a number of industries, increasing the battery life 20 Ways To Increase Laptop's Battery Life Read More of our smartphones and tablets, our vehicles How Electric Cars Will Overcome Charging Limits Electric cars are great -- except for their range. Can electric cars overcome range technologies? Read More , and perhaps even our homes Did Elon Musk Just Save Us From Fossil Fuels? Read More .

Today’s most popular smartphones reportedly last around 11–14 hours on a single charge, under continuous use. If the data from Samsung’s research stays consistent, you could effectively double that time — meaning it’s okay if you forget to charge your phone at night. Or, if your phone doesn’t quite hit that 11–14-hour mark, maybe you could finally get through a whole day without being tied to a charger.

Electric cars could travel roughly twice the distance on a single charge, which could help manufacturers convert more drivers to hybrid and electric models. Right now, the Tesla Model S has a range of about 265 miles. This technology would increase that to about 480 with no increase in weight or size. That would let you drive for almost seven hours on a single charge at highway speeds, making long road trips much more practical.



This development could also have a huge impact on wearable devices — many of which can’t hold a charge long enough for you to reasonably use them all day. This could enable augmented reality devices like Google Glass or the HoloLens to truly enter the mainstream.

But it’s important to remember that this is just a research project — Samsung has yet to mold its findings into a commercial product, and it may be a while before that happens. While the technology may very well be commercially viable, we likely have at least two or three years to wait before it powers the devices we use every day.

What do you think about Samsung’s new battery technology? And, more importantly, how would you benefit from lithium-ion batteries with twice their current capacity? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Image Credits: George Dolgikh, Bloomua, Wikimedia


Related topics: Automotive Technology, Battery Life, Wearable Technology.

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  1. Anonymous
    July 7, 2015 at 9:05 am

    What's most important is safety of the battery, as in, will it overheat and/or explode? I know Li-Po batteries will explode if they overheat, but what's different about Li-Ion batteries? Are there any other dangers or downfalls of this improved technology? If overheating does become a problem, they'll need to install fans inside, but with these devices being so small and fans requiring power to run, this would be impossible (referring to smartphones only).

    • Brad Merrill
      July 25, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      Interesting point - that's definitely something worth considering!

  2. Anonymous
    June 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    It will make a huge difference to me. I use grab-and-go battery DIY tools and household cleaning tools, with only a stair-cleaning vacuum still left as a plug-in. My main transport during the week is an electric bicycle and I would love to have greater capacity as the main road into the nearest town here is called 'Killhorse Lane' with good reason and, on windy or other adverse weather condition days, I worry about being able to get back home, especially with a heavy load of shopping on the trailer. Our household car is a Smart Car and, if we weren't right out in the countryside (where there are no immediate plans for charging stations), I'd swap it for electric right away - so a decent battery life would make all the difference to that choice.

    When batteries last went through a major upgrade, that was when I swapped things over to battery. It's made life so much easier, having grab-and-go tools because it's simply possible to get much more done. Whereas there's often not time to get out cumbersome equipment with tangled and/or damaged leads, there is frequently time to get out a lighter battery equivalent and just start working, whatever you're wearing (no dirty or oily leads to ruin clothes and shoes).

    So this is one area where I might be an early adopter...

    • Brad Merrill
      July 1, 2015 at 1:00 am

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Maryon! You're definitely right that battery-operated equipment makes life easier, and this technology could be great for that sort of thing. Electric cars are a big one too — doubling the range would make them far more viable for most people.

  3. Anonymous
    June 30, 2015 at 9:46 am

    I still have a Galaxy S3 and since I walk most places I usually carry a spare battery rather than a charger so I can't really say it would make much difference to me other than saving me the two minutes it takes to shut down, swap the battery, and reboot hoping I don't miss a call that matters. Doubled capacity would open up new phone upgrade options though since everyone is moving away from removable batteries.

    • Brad Merrill
      July 1, 2015 at 12:49 am

      I used to be an Android user (I've since switched to iOS), and one of the things I really miss is being able to switch out the battery on my device. There's something to be said for an instant recharge, but doubled capacity could do the trick too.

      • Anonymous
        July 1, 2015 at 12:58 am

        Yeah I like having it as an option. Fits in your pocket a lot more nicely than a charger and doesn’t require me to sit somewhere to recharge. When I do replace this phone it’s probably going to be with an S5 since that’s the last of the Galaxy devices with swappable batteries. And of course being a DJ I like Samsung’s low light camera performance. I appreciate the quality of Apple devices but I just can’t get over the lack of customization options. Wish someone would make an ultrabook and an Android phone with the style and solid build of Apple.

        • Brad Merrill
          July 1, 2015 at 1:13 am

          For sure. Apple makes great products but they're not very tinker-friendly. It's hard to find that perfect balance between solid build and customization.