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Better lithium-ion batteries

Most of us are aware by now that pretty much all of our modern portable gadgets are powered by lithium-ion batteries, however these batteries are also used in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Now considering the amount of time that lithium-ion batteries have been used on a very large scale, by a large number of manufacturers from a variety of industries, you’d think that we have a pretty good understanding of how the things work, well not really.

Current engineering understanding of how lithium ions behave is limited, however it has allowed us to use them in order to create longer lasting batteries, but that limit might just have been broken through recently.

Two researchers at the University of California, San Diego, Professor Miroslav Krstic and postdoctoral fellow Scott Moura have apparently devised a new set of algorithms that will enable them to better understand what exactly is going on inside a lithium-ion battery.

Krstic is also a faculty member of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering, and he said that engineers tend to overcompensate for the lack of exact knowledge about how lithium ions function, by making the batteries larger than they actually need to be, and that is a crucial point when it comes to saving both costs and weight.

With a better understanding of how the batteries actually work, it will be possible to safely operate much closer to the limits of performance, which in turn means that it won’t be need to design oversized batteries.

The new algorithms that the two have developed should allow batteries not only to be made smaller, but they would also recharge up to two times faster, and their cost would drop by about a quarter.

The research has been funded from a four million dollar DoE grant which is shared with supplier Robert Bosch GmbH and battery maker Cobasys.

The two said that they are continuing their research and looking into how to better control the charging rate of batteries by gaining more information about how much energy is contained within them.

The overall goal will be to develop a set of algorithms and then have Bosch test them within a three-year period, so we might get to benefit from the fruits of this research relatively soon.

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