Battery life has become a perennial problem for users, with the mobile revolution hamstrung by the need to stay within plug-in distance of a power point. Now researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland and Toyota's Research Laboratories in Japan have discovered a previously unknown trait in widely used lithium-ion batteries, which they believe could provide the foundations for building better batteries in future.
It's long been known that Nickel-Cadmium and Nickel-metal hydride batteries suffer from what's termed the memory effect. When one of these batteries is recharged before its fully out of juice, the battery appears to remember this, and assumes in future that it need not supply all of its energy.
Until now, it had been assumed that lithium-ion batteries were immune to the memory effect. But according to Tsuyoshi Sasaki, Petr Novák and Yoshio Ukyo that is a mistake.
”Ours is the first study that has specifically looked for a memory effect in lithium-ion batteries. It had simply been assumed that no such effect would arise,“ said Novák.
The researchers were chiefly focused on what impact this might have on batteries used in electric vehicles. They noted that such batteries are partially charged during the act of braking, suggesting that the small memory effect could, over time, add up to a large memory effect. That would mean a batteries degrading far faster than they need to.
But the practice of recharging batteries before they're exhausted is also pretty common when it comes to smartphone, tablet and laptop use.
Knowing that the memory effect exists in lithium-ion batteries could enable the manufacturers to develop power management software to account for this, says Novák. This would certainly be welcomed by many across the world if it removed that panic as you notice your battery is about to disappear.
The research was published in this week's Nature Materials.
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