Research from the University of Utah has revealed new possibilities for fast-charging lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used for portable electronics, electric vehicles and portable electrical appliances, and for storing solar energy.

However, the main disadvantage of these batteries is the low charging speed. This is in particular due to a side reaction where lithium ions are trapped in the graphite particles too quickly.

Lithium plating occurs when the lithium-ion moves too fast for the graphite particles in the battery to catch it. While charging, it can be dangerous and could cause the battery to catch fire or explode.

We have designed an experiment that can visualize what happens to the negative electrode during charging. We can see a particle of graphite – the material in the negative electrode – and what happens when the battery is being charged in real-time. We now understand the physics of this process. Through this, we can remove the limitations and improve the charging performance of the battery.

Tao Gao, Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Utah

Thanks to this, Gao believes, it is possible to create a car battery that charges five times faster than usual, or in just 10 minutes. Also, using this technology, it will be possible to charge a smartphone in 10 minutes.

According to the authors, the latest type of high-speed charging can be implemented for smartphones in 3-5 years, and for electric vehicles in 5-10 years.