The advance could lead to the production of high-rate lithium-ion batteries, with interesting implications for personal electronics and, perhaps, even electric vehicles.
Lithium-ion batteries owe their popularity to their ability to store large amounts of energy into a relatively small and light package; however, they can take a fairly long time to charge. This is largely due to the limitations of the battery anode, which is usually made of graphite. Namely, the lithium ions inside the battery need to travel a longer distance than strictly needed to reach the anode, taking more time than necessary. Secondly, the limited surface area of the electrode also slows down the rate at which the charging/discharging electrochemical reactions can take place.
A team of scientists led by Professor Chen Xiaodong has developed a proof-of-concept battery anode that addresses both these problems at the same time. The researchers replaced the standard graphite anode with a gel material containing long nanotubes made out of titanium dioxide, resulting in a much faster-charging battery which is also significantly more long-lived.