The topic of batteries has been in the news a lot lately. In February we learned that Apple had been sued by an advanced battery company called A123 Systems for "employee raiding" or poaching. The technology could be for a car battery but also for advanced smart-device batteries. Last week Apple introduced their new MacBook and introduced the innovative terraced battery cell. So there's no doubt that advancing battery life is on the minds of most in the smart-device business. Now there's news of a possible breakthrough in battery technology that could be around the corner.
The University of Michigan's spin-off called Sakti3, has developed next generation solid-state technology that could store twice the energy as traditional rechargeable smartphone batteries while being able to be made thinner, lighter and safer. Dyson, UK's vacuum cleaner company has invested 15 million in the company that will also be able to double the battery life of electric cars to over 600 miles per charge. James Dyson stated that "Sakti3 has achieved leaps in performance, which current battery technology simply can't.
The lithium-ion technologies used in today's best batteries have barely progressed since their introduction in 1991 by Sony. There has been improvement in longevity and charging times, but not a great deal in terms of the amount of energy that batteries store.
The report further noted that mobile electronics have been forced to choose: either be heavier and thicker, or else suffer from poor battery life, which is one of the reasons products like the iPhone rarely last longer than a day on a single charge.
Sakti3's solid-state technology uses solid lithium electrodes instead of a liquid mix of chemicals, which doubles the amount of energy that can be stored within a battery.
The batteries also promise to be cheaper to manufacture, longer lasting and be more environmentally friendly than current lithium-ion batteries. Solid-state batteries also remove some of the safety issues around the explosive nature of liquid batteries.
Ann Marie Sastry, founder and chief executive of Sakti3, said that the agreement with Dyson will allow the company to bring its technology to the mass market. "There is a great deal of knowledge and passion on both sides, and Dyson's engineering team has the capability and the track record to scale up new ideas and make them a commercial reality," she said.
The investment from Dyson guarantees that the new battery technology will appear first in Dyson products, including new versions of its cordless machines and robotic vacuum cleaners. But the applications for the technology go far beyond cleaning products. For more on this, read the full Guardian report
Whether the battery technology that Apple is working on is as advanced as Sakti3's solid state technology or even better is of course unknown at this time. But it's safe to say that Apple is making every attempt at getting ahead of the curve on battery technology in the hopes of providing future iDevices and the MacBooks with longer battery life. A true breakthrough on this front from Apple or their competitors could be a game changer. While it may take a few years to see this new battery technology come to market, the race is on and Apple is going all out to get there first.