Computer features constantly make leaps and bounds. Laptop sizes shrink. Processing speeds double. Hard-disk capacities triple. So how come we never hear about significant strides in battery life?
The truth is, the batteries that come with portable PCs nowadays are huge improvements over their predecessors. But these gains are often invisible. Every time batteries offer up more juice, the laptop's flashy new features start guzzling power faster than ever. In the end: net zero.
However, a battery breakthrough in South Korea has gadget designers excited. Researchers claim to have discovered a way to boost energy efficiency in lithium batteries by 90 percent.
This new method replaces the graphite that's usually found in lithium batteries with special silicon particles. "Scientists had already known about silicon as a prospective material to make re-chargeable batteries," according to a press release from Seoul, "but had made no breakthroughs previously because silicon tends to expand when in contact with lithium." The team overcame this problem by crafting "three-dimensional porous silicon particles made of silica and hydrogen fluoride."
Group leader Cho Jae-phil says that, with more research, they could extend the battery lives of laptops and cellphones by eight times their current limit.
Imagine, BlackBerrys that go for weeks before needing to recharge – or, gadgets with eight times the battery-draining features. Mr. Cho says these silicon-lithium batteries could hit mass production in four to five year. His team is already investigating ways to integrate the energy-efficient technology with solar panels.