Altair Li-ion Charge in 6 Minutes :: New Scientist
Charge a battery in just six minutes
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition
A rechargeable battery that can be fully charged in just 6 minutes, lasts 10
times as long as today's rechargeables and can provide bursts of electricity
up to three times more powerful is showing promise in a Nevada lab.
New types of battery are badly needed. Nokia's chief technologist Yrjö Neuvo
warned last year that batteries are failing to keep up with the demands of
the increasingly energy-draining features being crammed into mobile devices
(New Scientist print edition, 28 February 2004).
The highest energy-per-weight ratio in today's batteries is provided by
lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. They are also cheaper in terms of energy
delivered per unit of weight than alternative types of battery such as
nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) and nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) types. But Li-ion
cells have their drawbacks too. They eventually wear out, and they cannot
discharge energy quickly enough for applications requiring power surges,
such as camera flashguns and power tools.
They may soon be able to. Altair Technologies of Reno has created a new type
of Li-ion cell in which the anode has an exceptionally high surface area.
This allows electrons to enter and leave it quickly - making fast recharging
possible and providing high currents when needed.
Li-ion batteries work by forcing lithium ions from a lithium cobalt oxide
cathode to migrate to a carbon anode via an electrolyte solution. Altair's
patented modification is to make the anode surface out of lithium titanate
nanocrystals, using chemical tricks to give it a surface area of about 100
square metres per gram, compared with 3 square metres per gram for carbon.
The firm is keeping the chemistry that allows it to do this pretty close to
its chest for commercial reasons. But the patent (US 6689716) reveals that
the increased surface area is achieved using a carefully controlled sequence
of evaporative steps when making the lithium titanate crystals.
The high current that this modified electrode is able to carry means
power-hungry devices can be installed in mobile phones, which until now have
been denied them. For instance, camera phones might now have enough power to
run a flashgun.
Altair says the battery will have other advantages, too. The crystalline
surface of a carbon anode is susceptible to damage by the repeated
temperature changes that occur as the battery is used and recharged. This
limits its life to around 400 charging cycles.
The more rugged lithium titanate anode should make it possible to recharge
the battery as many as 20,000 times says Roy Graham, development director at
Altair. A longer lifespan should also be better for the environment, he
says. "The continual use of polluting cobalt oxides is questionable."
Altair Nanotechnologies, Inc.
204 Edison Way, Reno, NV 89502
Altair plans to develop its batteries for power tools, which have till now
required more expensive Ni-Cd or NiMH batteries to provide the large
currents these devices need. The company hopes to license its technology to
major battery-makers, who could have the device on the market in two years'
time. Altair says it eventually wants to produce batteries for a broad range
of devices, from phones to hybrid electric vehicles
ALTAIR NANOTECHNOLOGIES AWARDED EUROPEAN PATENT
Newly Patented Process for Design, Development, and Production of Titanium
Oxide Structures Customized for Titanium Metal Production
RENO, NV. - March 03, 2005 - Altair Nanotechnologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: ALTI), a
developer and manufacturer of innovative nanomaterial products, today
announced the company was awarded a new European patent entitled "Method for
Producing Catalyst Structures" by the European Patent Office. The new patent
describes the process for making microporous structures that can be used as
a catalyst supports, or as electrode materials, in connection with titanium
metal production and other processes.
"This patent strengthens our intellectual property position, further
differentiates Altair within the rapidly growing nanotechnology market and
illustrates our commitment to bring nanotechnology out of the laboratory and
into commercialization," said Dr. Alan J. Gotcher, Chief Executive Officer
of Altair Nanotechnologies. "The technology described in this patent is
being applied in a development program, using titanium dioxide electrodes
manufactured by Altair, to produce titanium metal by a more cost-effective
process. This program is being conducted in conjunction with our partner,
Titanium Metals Corporation, under a U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA) contract."
The DARPA contract was awarded to advance the Fray-Farthing-Chen (FFC)
Cambridge Titanium Process technology for the electrochemical production of
titanium metal. The FFC process promises to significantly reduce the cost of
manufacturing titanium metal and to dramatically expand titanium use in a
wider range of applications that include lightweight armored military
vehicles, the manufacture of automotive and aerospace parts and components
for power generation, oil and gas drilling, and lightweight and durable