It seems that no matter what the latest ‘must have' portable gadget of the day is – mobile phone, PDA or emailer – one thing remains constant: rubbish battery life. While hardware innovations are constantly producing more powerful machines, battery innovation lags behind.
But joint research between Bell Labs, part of network giant Lucent, and mPhase could herald a whole new era for battery technology. The Nanostructured Novel Battery, which was demonstrated at the Nanotech 2005 conference in May, could result in batteries with a life span of 15-20 years. That is well in excess of current gadgets and even the most durable batteries used in storage appliances expect to degrade by 10% per year.
The batteries use special properties of certain hydroscopic electrolytes that can be stored on a microscopic structure called ‘nanograss'; when stimulated the fluids then produce an electric current. The advantage of this type of design is that it promises to radically reduce battery size and weight. It is also possible to customise the design so that batteries can be built to fit into any pre-designed space.
The batteries also offer improved power densities compared to conventional designs. They are not yet ready for commercial production, but have already won praise from analysts at research group Frost & Sullivan. "mPhase's battery technology has the potential to herald new portable device applications in the aerospace, defence, consumer electronics, industrial, and healthcare sectors," it says.