Whether it's mobile phones or electric cars, consumers tend to be put off by the long recharge times and limited battery life. Now, thanks a team of engineers at Nanyang Technology University, there's a lithium-ion battery on the horizon that dramatically improves both of these limitations.

In addition to to the rapid charging times, the new battery features a lifespan of over 20 years. That's more than 10 times the duration of existing lithium-ion batteries.

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The rechargeable batteries could be used in a number of devices, but its use in electric cars may hold the most potential. With this new technology, drivers of electric vehicles could save tens of thousands of dollars on battery replacement costs. And just as importantly, they'll be able to recharge their cars in just a matter of minutes (so it'll be similar to filling up at a gas station).

Clockwise from top: NTU Assoc Prof Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang. Credit: NTU.

Typically, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries — such as those used in mobile phones, tablets, and in electric vehicles — last about 500 recharge cycles. That's about two to three years of typical use, with each cycle taking about two hours for the battery to be fully charged. But the new NTU-developed battery features a 10,000-cycle life. So, in addition to drastically cutting down on the toxic waste generated by disposed batteries, the new batteries could save on the cost of battery replacements, which is about $5,000 each.

A release from NTU explains how it works:

In the new NTU-developed battery, the traditional graphite used for the anode (negative pole) in lithium-ion batteries is replaced with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide.

Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap and safe material found in soil. It is commonly used as a food additive or in sunscreen lotions to absorb harmful ultraviolet rays.

Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging.

Invented by Associate Professor Chen Xiaodong from NTU's School of Materials Science and Engineering, the science behind the formation of the new titanium dioxide gel was published in the latest issue of Advanced Materials, a leading international scientific journal in materials science.

Prof Chen and his team will be applying for a Proof-of-Concept grant to build a large-scale battery prototype. With the help of NTUitive, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NTU set up to support NTU start-ups, the patented technology has already attracted interest from the industry.

The technology is currently being licensed by a company for eventual production. Prof Chen expects that the new generation of fast-charging batteries will hit the market in the next two years. It also has the potential to be a key solution in overcoming longstanding power issues related to electro-mobility.

Two years seems optimistic, but you can understand why they might want to rush their product to market; the global market of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries is projected to be worth US $23.4 billion in 2016.

Check out the study at Advanced Materials.

Top image: baloon111/Shutterstock.