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Five cool battery inventions that could change modern life forever

By Rachel England Wednesday 27 March 2013

The first incarnation of the battery came about in 1800, but since then they’ve become an integral part of our lives, varying in size from the monsters used in our cars to the tiny lithium dots in watches. Batteries have 3 main components: 2 electrodes (the positive anode and the negative cathode) and a medium called an electrolyte, which allows positively charged ions to move between the electrodes in balance with the flow of negatively charged electrons. This is the ‘useful current’, or the battery’s ‘zap’, for want of a better term.

Despite the fact that batteries have been so critical to technological evolution, they’re not so great for the environment. In fact, they’re difficult and dangerous to get rid of, and their disposable nature means they’re pretty wasteful, too. But like all things in these techy times, plans are afoot to make batteries slimmer, cheaper, more efficient and better for the environment.

Check out these 5 cool developments.

 

#1 Lithium-air (Li-air) batteries

After the trusty AA or AAA battery, rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are usually our go-to energy source, responsible for powering mobile devices such as phones and tablet computers. The problem with these, as anyone who experiences battery drain on a regular basis will know, is that they don’t really last very long, and smartphone addicts can struggle to get through the day without hooking up their device to a charger. So scientists set about looking for an alternative, and came up with lithium-air batteries, where oxygen is used as a catalyst for exchanging electrons. And boy, do they address the battery-life issue. This type of battery can theoretically hold more than 40 times the charge as a lithium ion battery the same weight.

However, to produce them would mean mining more nickel and cobalt, which could negatively impact the environment in a number of ways.  The technology looks promising, but we’ll probably have to wait until 2027 before laptops will only need charging once a month.

 

 

#2 Lithium-sulphur (Li-S) battery

Batteries using sulphur alongside lithium might be out a little sooner – maybe in 2022. They’ll have double or triple the energy density of today's lithium ion batteries, which means they would keep your phone or laptop going for longer.

Unfortunately, these experimental batteries still need a bit of fine-tuning, as they lose 20% of their capacity after just 100 cycles – that’s 10 times less than lithium ion. Fingers crossed they’ll get it nailed in the next 5 years!

 

#3 “Graphene ball” battery

Samsung claims to have developed a battery that charges 5 times faster than standard lithium-ion batteries. The team of researchers at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) has developed a unique battery material called “graphene1 ball”, which, in theory, needs just 12 minutes to fully charge. It might also allow battery capacities to grow by 45%.

This new super-charging technology isn’t just good news for mobile devices, it’s also great for electric vehicles and other items that would benefit from high-capacity batteries.

It’s not clear when we’ll be able to fully charge our iPhone while eating our brekkie, but we hope it’s pretty soon.

 

#4 OVO SolarStore (Beta) battery

Batteries aren’t just for gadgets anymore. In fact, battery storage systems with solar could be the answer to our future energy system. That’s why, in October 2017, we teamed up with Nissan to bring you OVO SolarStore (Beta) – the powerful home battery that harnesses the potential of solar set-ups. This innovative collaboration is the first of its kind in the UK, designed to get more homes storing and selling power back to the grid.

It combines VNet – OVO’s groundbreaking intelligent energy technology – with the capabilities of the innovative Nissan xStorage Home system. It’s great for you, as you can store more of your solar-generated energy and use it at home when the sun isn’t shining. And it’s great for everyone else, as it helps balance energy demand, which reduces the peak-time energy generation that tends to be carbon-intensive.

Not only could it lower your bills by an average of £590 in the first year2, but by joining the beta you’ll also be helping to create a greener, more-efficient energy system for the UK.

 

 

#5 Titanium niobium oxide battery

Electric vehicles (EVs) are the future of clean energy transportation. And range anxiety really could become a thing of the past with new technologies like Toshiba’s next-generation SCiB. Toshiba claims that this new fast-charging battery will allow an EV with a drive range of 320km to travel 3 times further – and then be fully recharged again in 6 minutes. Not bad.

It uses a new material for the anode called titanium niobium oxide, which has been arranged into a crystal structure to store lithium ions more efficiently. Impressively, this has doubled the energy density. This development could make a significant difference to the range and performance of EV – and might be out as soon as 2019.

Do you drive an EV? Then you might be interested in the bundle we’ve designed especially for you. It combines a 2 Year Fixed energy plan with 2 free add-ons, for effortless charging at home and on the road. Check it out – it’s called EV Everywhere.

 

O​VO​ Energy Ltd, registered office 1 Rivergate Temple Quay Bristol, BS1 6ED, company no. 06890795 registered in England and Wales, VAT No. 100119879

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Please see below for full terms and conditions on 33% renewable electricity, 3-5% interest rewards, exit fees and saving claims.

 

1Monthly cost - Representative monthly direct debit costs based on a non-economy-7, dual-fuel, medium user (3100 kWhs elec. and 12500 kWhs gas) paying in advance by direct debit, including online discount.  All rates correct as of 20/3/2018, but may go up or down.

2Weekly cost - Representative weekly costs based on a non-economy-7, dual-fuel, medium user (3100 kWhs elec. and 12500 kWhs gas).  All rates correct as of 22/11/2017, but may go up or down.

3Pay Monthly Savings claims: Saving based on the estimated annual cost of Simpler tariff for a non-economy-7, dual-fuel, medium user (3100 kWhs elec. and 12500 kWhs gas) paying monthly in advance by direct debit, including online discount. Comparisons made against the average of the Big 6 standard variable tariffs with equivalent features. All rates correct as of 20/3/2018.“The Big 6” are British Gas, Scottish Power, SSE, Npower, E.ON and EDF.

4Pay As You Go Savings are based on the average estimated annual costs for new PAYG OVO customers quoted through the OVO website (based on household and/or consumption information provided by those customers), compared to their current supplier and tariff. Comparisons taken between 01/01/2016 and 11/10/16. Incl VAT. Actual savings may vary according to your current supplier or tariff, individual tariff options, household information, consumption and location. 

We include almost twice as much renewable electricity as the national average: At least 33% of electricity in all of our tariffs comes from renewable sources. The national average, according to Ofgem as at March 2014 was 16.7%. For more information please visit this page.

33% of your electricity comes from renewable sources: 33% renewable electricity as standard as of 1st April 2015. Renewable electricity is generated from wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydro, biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment plant gas and biogas.

OVO Interest Rewards: Interest Rewards are paid on credit balances of customers paying by monthly Direct Debit. It is calculated at 3% in your first year, 4% in your second year and 5% in your third year (and every year thereafter) if you pay by Direct Debit. Interest Rewards are paid monthly based on the number of days you’re in credit and the amount left in your account after you’ve paid your bill. Full terms apply: https://www.ovoenergy.com/terms

95% of new customers save when switching to OVO: Savings based on the average estimated annual costs for all new OVO customers quoted through the OVO website, compared to their current supplier and tariff. Comparisons taken between 01/05/2016 and 11/10/16. Incl VAT.

94% of surveyed customers would recommend us: OVO conducted a survey of their customers in between 1st January 2016 and 15th April 2016. Out of 15,312 customers who responded, over 94% rated OVO 6+ when asked 'how likely would you be to recommend us to a friend and family, on a scale of 1 to 10.

uSwitch's Energy Supplier of the Year 2017: OVO energy was voted and awarded  'Energy Supplier of the year' and best for: Overall Customer Satisfaction, Most Likely to be Recommended, Value for Money, Best Deal for You, Customer Service, Billing Services, Energy Efficiency, Meter Services, Online Services, Green Services and Transfer Process. OVO Energy scored a 96% customer satisfaction score.

* EV - Everywhere, full terms and conditions: https://www.ovoenergy.com/ev-everywhere/terms

* OVO SolarStore (Beta), full terms and conditions: https://www.ovoenergy.com/ovo-solar-store/terms

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