/ Technology

Jelly power – the future of battery technology…?

Batteries are a fundamental part of our lives – but the technology is failing to keep up with our ever more power-hungry products. Until now? Enter the jelly lithium battery.

Batteries – they’re everywhere. The plastic battery recycling bank near my desk has lots of old non-rechargeables waiting to go off to be recycled. Whether we see them or not, we usually have daily contact with them. I for one charge my phone every day.

It’s fair to say that battery technology hasn’t really leaped forward in the way that other technology has. In fact, it’s been too slow to keep up with an increasing array of power-hungry products, which we use in ever more power-hungry ways.

Many of us find this frustrating, especially when the flashing red battery symbol or similar pops up to tell you that you’re on your last legs.

Jelly power

With this firmly in mind, an interesting new development caught my eye. Researchers from The University of Leeds have developed a lithium jelly battery. Yes, jelly (although as you’ll see from the picture below, it’s not quite the type you might be thinking of).

Jelly lithium battery (University of Leeds) Most conventional rechargeable lithium batteries are sealed containers (of various shapes and sizes) with flammable liquid and other materials inside. If used sensibly these are usually safe, but – as several reports of incidents and product recalls have proved – they’re not foolproof, with the risk of overheating the main culprit.

Weight is another issue with these, and any, batteries. The desire for longer-lasting power is in direct competition with the desire for smaller sizes and weights – the two don’t really sit well with each other.

A wobble-free start

The jelly battery, however, promises to overcome these problems. The active, or ‘energy’ part will be thinner, meaning that for the same overall space, more energy will be available, leading to a longer life. Great news!

And as you’d expect, jelly batteries can be more easily moulded into the required shape – much like a real jelly. This is one reason why the manufacturing process is likely to be cheaper. Given that there is no risk of liquid leaking, safety will be improved too.

All in all then, it sounds great. Trials have started with a view to the technology appearing in small portable devices within a couple of years. I’m excited about this development, and am already looking forward to not having to charge my mobile phone every day. Are you ready for the jelly-powered battery revolution?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Lithium ion batteries store a lot of energy and, as with all batteries, there is a risk of overheating if something goes wrong. Some laptop manufacturers issued recalls a few years ago after their Sony lithium ion batteries overheated and in rare cases caught fire. Safety has been improved by the development of lithium ion polymer batteries which prevents leakage of electrolyte, and also circuitry to avoid overheating in the event of a problem. Lithium ion polymer batteries can be designed to fit the space available but their storage capacity is not as good as the original lithium ion batteries.

It looks as if the jelly batteries could be better than what is available at present, though we will have to wait to find out.

In the meantime, the solution to the short battery life that annoys Chris and many others is to either produce phones with larger batteries or to design phones which allow a fresh battery to be slotted in without taking the phone apart. It’s not rocket science and until it happens I suggest we refer to smartphones as stupidphones.

Member
Sophie Gilbert says:
25 September 2011

I’ve been ready for the jelly-powered battery revolution ever since I’ve owned a torch, and I’m not kidding!

Member
thecoolguyIguess says:
5 March 2013

You being jelly?

Profile photo of PamReddecliff
Member

Which is the best power bank under £30 that can charge multiple devices?