Despite often annoying us with shorter-than-ideal lifespans and the occasional explosion, modern rechargeable batteries are actually quite remarkable, especially when you consider the power they’re able to hold in very small footprints. That said, they could always be better, and while capacity is always a hot topic for those building the batteries of tomorrow, researchers at Drexel’s College of Engineering believe they’ve discovered a way to make modern batteries a whole lot better by reducing recharge times to mere seconds. 

Using a nanomaterial called MXene in a new electrode design, the research team was able to demonstrate extremely fast charging times. The remarkably high conductivity of MXene is a boon for battery charging, but its flat structure posed a big problem for its use in batteries, where ions must be allowed to move freely in order to achieve a full charge. When stacked, the material didn’t provide adequate freedom of movement for the ions.

To solve that issue, the scientists combined the MXene with a hydrogel in a “swiss cheese” structure which boasts both speedy charge times and enough open space for the ions to move around. “The ideal electrode architecture would be something like ions moving to the ports via multi-lane, high-speed ‘highways,’ instead of taking single-lane roads,” Maria Lukatskaya, a team member, explains. “Our macroporous electrode design achieves this goal, which allows for rapid charging — on the order of a few seconds or less.”

The research is promising, and could seriously change the game if the technology ever finds its way into consumer batteries. Phones charging in a matter of seconds would be great, of course, but the real beneficiary of such a rapidly-charging battery would undoubtedly be the electric car market, where hours of charging could be handled in a matter of seconds.

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