With each passing year, companies like Apple and Samsung manage to make smartphones faster while also packing them with increasingly advanced features. That’s all well and good, but battery technology, in contrast, has seemingly hit a plateau in recent years. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that the one feature request shared by most all smartphone users is prolonged battery life.
While smartphone manufacturers could theoretically equip their devices with bigger batteries, many of them are seemingly to obsessed with delivering hyper-thin form factors. Apple, of course, is a prime offender in this regard.
One of the inherent problems in significantly improving battery performance is that it’s extremely challenging from a science perspective. After all, there’s no real way to work around the laws of chemistry and physics. As a result, most improvements in battery efficiency and performance tend to be incremental in nature.
But Sony, it seems, appears to have something interesting up its sleeve. According to a report from Nikkei Technology, Sony is working on a new type of battery technology that promises to increase the energy density of today’s standard lithium-ion batteries by a whopping 40%.
The company plans to increase energy density per volume by 40% from the current 700Wh/L to 1,000Wh/L by using a sulfur (S) compound as an electrode material. Compared with an existing battery having the same volume, the new batteries can increase battery life (capacity) by 40%.
Specifically, the battery employs sulfur for the positive electrode and metal lithium for the negative electrode. Sony says that it’s planning to have a commercial version of its Sulfur-ion battery available for smartphones by 2020. Interestingly, the report adds that other companies are researching similar battery technologies independently.
Exciting? Sure. But we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves as there are some obstacles Sony needs to overcome. Chiefly, previous experiments with lithium-sulfur batteries resulted in the sulfur degrading rather quickly, making its use in commercial batteries a non-starter. That said, with Sony now providing us with a 5-year development window, it stands to reason that they’re confident that they can develop around this limitation.