Double Up Your Smartphone Battery Life with this New type of Glass  

Every day we struggle with the battery in our smartphones yet we lose battle when it comes to keeping these devices juiced up, but researchers from ETH Zurich have discovered a new type of glass material that could make a big difference: vanadate-borate glass. The glass can be used as an electrode material in lithium-ion batteries to double up the amount of time they last between charges.

Scientists Semih Afyon and Reinhard Nesper have been leading the ETH team for this discovery.

Various challenges had to be overcome to find a material that could both store battery capacity effectively and take a frequent number of charge cycles, while staying stable enough to be viable for use in modern-day short-lived electronics.

The  main challenge was to harness the potential of vanadium-based compounds, which can take more charge than materials currently used in cathodes, but become unstable after a few charge/discharge cycles because of their crystalline structure. To overcome this, the researchers mixed powdered vanadium pentoxide with borate compounds to create vanadate-borate glass – a material with a high capacity and stable structure that, according to Dr Afyon, is also simple and inexpensive to manufacture.

“What we need is new chemistry and novel compounds to obtain safe, better and longer-lasting batteries,” says Dr Afyon of the motivations behind the research. He added “vanadate-borate glass compound that we have developed could extend smartphone battery life by 1.5 to 2 times and allow electric cars to travel 1.5 times further, though these numbers are still theoretical projections for now.”

Not just gadgets need better batteries but also the number of electric cars, boats and bikes in operation continues to grow, and it’s essential for the future sustainability of the planet that these vehicles are able to cope with the increasing demands being put on them. What’s more, wind farms and solar power plants need to be able to store generated electricity effectively for when it’s required, another purpose that vanadate-borate glass could potentially be used for.

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