No matter how high-end your phone is, there’s no getting away from the fact it takes a few hours to fully charge it.
Breakthroughs have been made, notably with wireless charging, where you just have to place your handset on a charger rather than actually plug it in.
But now researchers have gone a giant step further by developing a battery which can charge a phone, or even a car, up in super speed.
It could mean you’d be able to charge up your iPhone in just five seconds – so no more having to remember to plug it in before you go to bed if you want a fully charged phone in the morning.
And, it could also be a major breakthrough for the world of electric vehicles. At the moment, even the world’s most expensive electric car, the Tesla Roadster, takes three-and-a-half hours to charge and many other EVs need to be plugged in overnight in order to be fully charged.
The radical new type of battery, called a micro-scale grapheme-based supercapacitor to give it its full name, can charge and discharge a hundred to a thousand times faster than standard batteries.
They are made from incredibly thin carbon, which can easily be integrated into gadgets. While the trend at the moments seems to be for our smartphones to be getting bigger, the new discovery could lead to far smaller phones, perhaps sparking a move in the other direction.
Richard Kaner, professor of materials science and engineering at UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied science, explained: “The integration of energy-storage units with electronic circuits is challenging and often limits the miniaturisation of the entire system.”
The research team used a two-dimensional sheet of carbon, known as grapheme, to develop the new battery, which is as thin as a single atom.
While the Nobel Prize in 2010 had been awarded in 2010 for a grapheme production method, no way had been found for mass production. The latest research at UCLA has come up with a cheap and easy way to make the new batteries – by using a standard DVD burner.
The new discovery came almost by accident when Maher El-Kady, who is a researcher with the team used a thin graphene sheet to light up a small light bulb.
Explaining the new cost-effective method of production, El-Kady said: “Traditional methods for the fabrication of micro-supercapacitors involve labor-intensive lithographic techniques that have proven difficult for building cost-effective devices, thus limiting their commercial application.
“Instead, we used a consumer-grade LightScribe DVD burner to produce graphene micro-supercapacitors over large areas at a fraction of the cost of traditional devices.
“Using this technique, we have been able to produce more than 100 micro-supercapacitors on a single disc in less than 30 minutes, using inexpensive materials.”
The team is now looking for industry partners to help it mass produce its new invention and is hoping to begin working with gadget makers to put its new charging method to good use.