Battery chargers are devices that feed electric currents into rechargeable batteries to renew their energy. Protocols for charging depend of the type of battery being used and its size. Some batteries are programmed to tolerate overcharging while being connected to a constant current source. Such kinds may need manual disconnection when the battery is recharged or they may cut-off at a fixed time through a timer. Those types that cannot withstand overcharging may have in-built voltage and temperature sensing circuits to cut off when fully charged.
Over the decades, smart phones and other devices have become technologically advanced with each passing year but power limitations are severely restrictive. The battery hasn’t witnessed the kind of advance that other devices have. But all that may be changing now.
It is only now that big technology companies such as those making electric vehicles are becoming aware of the limitations of lithium-ion batteries. The maximum recharge duration of the best Smartphone is limited to less than 60 hours while operating systems are becoming more and more power efficient. Universities around the world are making huge investments into a plethora of studies, research and discoveries. However, in spite of the many developments that have taken place especially in the last two decades, the ‘perfect replacement’ has not yet been achieved. Manufacturing techniques cost huge amounts and any additional changes come with huge costs.
But we may see huge changes as early as 2017 with superfast 30-second recharging and over-the-air charging likely to start trending.
Some of the path-breaking discoveries and technologies could be those that we are reading about already.
• Lithium-air breathing batteries – this mean oxygen is the oxidizer resulting in batteries costing nearly a fifth of the price and weighing a fifth less than lithium-ion making phones, cars and other devices last longer. Dallas University is still pursuing this discovery and it may take at least five years to come to market.
• Bioo plant charger – as the name suggests, this harnesses photosynthesis to charge a device. Already available in the market, the ‘plant pot’ reacts with organic matter and water using organic materials and generates enough power for charging devices. This is a huge step forward as it provides green energy and allows energy from forests to be harnessed; in addition, it can add up to a greener planet.
• Gold nanowire batteries – a thousand times thinner than human hair, this technology provides a breakthrough for future batteries that can withstand plenty of recharging and not die. Researchers at the University of California have used gold nanowires in a gel electrolyte that have withstood 200,000 recharges in three months and have not broken down at all.
• Magnesium batteries – a breakthrough in harnessing the mineral magnesium for batteries has been achieved by some scientists. This allows for smaller densely packed battery units that in the long run could make cheaper batteries not dependent on lithium-ion. However, this is still in the development stage.
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