Working in concert with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the Department of Energy, a team at the Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has come up with a new type of battery that uses an innovative three-dimensional nanostructure for the cathode that can dramatically improve the charge/discharge speeds without impacting the overall ability to store electrical energy. According to Professor Paul Braun, leader of the R&D team, the advance yields a system that offers capacitor-like power output with battery-like storage characteristics. The secret lies in wrapping a special open-structure porous metallic lattice with a unique thin film of active material to create an electrode structure that permits far faster ionic transfer rates without damaging the actual battery structure.
Braun's group has already demonstrated improvements in speeds of 10 to 100 times using this new cathode technology, which ultimately could bring recharging times of a typical hybrid car battery down to mere minutes and have equally dramatic impact on battery replenishment intervals in everything from cell phones to laptops. This unique structure is capable of being used with lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride chemistry, but is reportedly compatible with any type of material that can be deposited on the underlying metallic lattice. Braun also indicates that the processes used to create the lattice/film combo are already in widespread commercial use.