Scientists now know why rechargeable batteries go bad, and may know how to fix them


Sweet, sweet science is on its way to finding a cure for how lithium-ion batteries (like the one in your phone) lose their ability to hold a charge over time. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley, Brookhaven, and Stanford have found a pattern to the erosion that happens at both anode and cathode ends of the battery, when previously it was assumed the erosion was uniform. The salt that forms at the anode side and the metallic erosion on the cathode side both latch onto microscopic imperfections, kind of like how a water droplets latch onto a piece of dirt to begin forming rain or a snowflake.

With deeper understanding of these erosion patterns, researchers are already digging into solutions to the problem. Scientists at Berkeley are already working on a powder that will counteract small-scale imperfections on the anodes and improve overall battery life.

This research is still in the early stages, so it's hard to say exactly how much more long-term battery life we can eventually expect from this research, but it sure is promising. We use lithium-ion batteries a lot, and since the core battery technology doesn't change often, every improvement we see is welcome. Be sure to dig into the article at the source link for more of the scientific nitty-gritty.

Are you happy with your phone's battery life? How long is it until your battery can't hold a respectable charge anymore?

Source: BNL; Via: Gizmodo


Reader comments

Scientists now know why rechargeable batteries go bad, and may know how to fix them


Our future depends on it! Without research, our technology wouldn't improve, and then we wouldn't have the windows phones we have in our hands right now!

There are sealed laptops like mine, and like my phone, it's harder to change it from my laptop, than on my phone, and for laptop battery can be up to 200-300$

What do you mean "easy to replace"? Laptop batteries are ridiculously overpriced. It's insane how much manufactures want for replacements. I have a Dell XPS 17 with a nine cell battery that's completely dead. I still haven't replaced it because of the cost.

As in it doesn't take any skills or special tools to replace them, that's what I mean by "easy to replace". I wasn't referring to the cost...

5 year old alienware with 17 inch screen, 2 graphic cards, dies in less than 3 minutes literally lol, initially 2 or 3 hours

I looked into it, but this thing is rare and expensive for my model of laptop lol. I prefer to save and get something like a Surface Pro 3. Just imagine how heavenly it would be for us to jump from batteries running out in few minutes to something running for 9 hours :-o

Don't leave your laptop plugged in after it is charged. A lot of people don't know this.

They recommend taking out the battery if you want to use it plugged in.

Actually that's wrong. Laptops today have a switch in them that when the battery is full charged it will switch from charging to running off electricity. Do some research.

Posted via Windows Phone Central App

True, was going to say the same thing.. these batteries usually outlast the phone itself. With that said though, I still have my old iPhone 4 with a very healthy battery.

My 4yr old Acer Aspire holds less than 10 mins. But I bought a Makita drill years ago when lithium ion batteries were the new expensive thing in tools, the original batteries still hold a good charge despite being very well used.

Umm, good how, they aren't going to open up your battery and sprinkle the powder inside and magically go back. Plus, it means life of the battery as whole, not on a daily basis.

What I'd like to know is why laptop batteries (specifically Dell) lose 50% of their capacity at the one year mark. Seems very suspicious if you ask me :)

i get about 13 hours or more, and start recharging again on 35% of battery, so maybe i will get on a day about 15 hours tops. also 1020 (glance, glancebackground and white background, BUT on silent cause of work)

Are you saying that all this time batteries were going bad and they all shrug their shoulders to the question?  Maybe this is new but I was under the impression they always knew why batteries go bad.

They knew why. hell I learned in highschool chem with a potato battery. They just now understand more of ways to prevent it to an extent.

I'm not using my 620 that much anymore. It went on 100% battery. Starting at 1 day 15 hours to. 1 day 12 hours, to 22 hours, 100% battery life. And ill bet it got lower now if I fully charge and check. With battery saver everything on. Kinda weird.

I don't think my 920's battery is any worse than it was since day one. In fact, thanks to WP8.1 and its latest updates, I'd say it's slightly better.

Well my 920 isn't too bad after 18 month and was far better than my htc mozart, in the short term better performance with apps and operating systems will improve battery life

It seems like making better batteries will hurt their business. People either buy new batteries or entire new phones when batteries go bad. I hope this truly finds its way to market.

True, my father upgraded to the Galaxy S5 the day it came out only because his S2 battery died off.

I'm really tired of reading all these articles (mostly on other sites) on battery tech advances. I feel like researchers are doing a lot to improve it but the work they do never seems to make it into the consumer tech market. I'm not saying I expect this stuff do be in my next phone, but I wouldn't be surprised if the top of the line battery advancements from three years ago are still not incorporated into new devices. It just seems like it is always 'next year' or 'coming soon' but never really does.

Exactly what I was about to say. Every year we read about new discoveries for new batteries that can recharge on 5 minutes or that can hold as much charge as 20 batteries, but we never see any progress in the batteries they sell us.

Sounds like wonderful potential for the future in all types of battery powered devices.  Just hope that the new technology doesnt cost too much more, especially as there will be a loss of future manufacturers revenue with reduced number of replacements required !


Same thing was said about early electric cars until they realized how much money the wealthy would lose as a result of better technology.

This won't effect most smartphone owners, even if it proves to be a measureable benefit. I think most people upgrade well before the battery is unusable. Although, it may mean a small improvement that most wouldn't really notice, overtime. Regardless, I'm all about better batteries. I mean, my Palm Treo 750 still holds a charge... Lol. I think I've had 5 or 6 phones since then. Actually, I only have 1 smartphonephone, of all I've owned, that doesn't work. My Blackberry Bold 9000 just wouldn't boot after sitting discharged for months.

Since upgrading to WP 8.1, I've been watching the battery saver. I removed one app (Hexic) that was a battery hog. It didn't allow me to turn off run in background. Why a game needs to run in background, access my photo and music libraries, and my phone dialer, I don't understand. That's not a game, that's spyware. :(

I've turned off run in background for most apps, only allowing those that really need to do so. My year-old 920 usually gets 30-36 hours, less if I'm talking a lot and playing games.

But I'd love to have a battery that never degrades.

On the topic of batteries, I would like to see Nokia or any WP OEM make phone that focuses more on battery life. Like the Motorola Droid X does. Think of a Lumia 1520 with a 4500-5000 mAh battery in place of a slightly smaller camera like the 8.7mp from the 920/928.

So no fix for current phones :( But as a solution for future devices, this sounds great. The lumia 920 is already a year an a half old, running on a hardware platform that is a little over 2 years old already and it still feels like it will be able to keep up for quite a while longer. Next gen phones are only going to get faster and more power efficient, and have the ability to have much longer life spans (as long as they are not dropped and destroyed), so having batteries that can keep their full capacity for years and years would be a very welcome change indeed!
As for my 920; a year and a half in and I get much better battery life than I did when it was new. It seems like each update extends the battery time at a faster rate than the battery capacity depletes, which is pretty awesome. I am sure that trend will end eventually, but for now I am using 50-75% of my phone's battery every day, and have not noticed any significant capacity depletion.

they can come up with how many solutions they want, they will be ignored. why ? cuz nowadays having a built-in battery with limited life secures news sales in 1-2 years for phone makers and also lowers resale value, which means some would rather buy a new phone because of shortened battery life. so its win-win for makers...

you can actually replace the battery, just search on youtube how to open your phone, replace the thing with a new one and ur done! not that hard ;)

I have Lumia 822 on Verizon. My battery life is amazing on highest screen brightness and WiFi and Bluetooth activated with immediate updates to emails in effect. It should be awful, but I get all day battery life

Whilst it cannot be the deciding factor in choosing which handset to buy,I do like handsets that have removable battery. Especially since I pay cash for my phones and keep them for a while. No hurry to change yet, Now my 820 is ruining preview 8.1. . Loving it.

My 920 goes an entire workday which is about 6am until 6/7pm at night without needing a charge.  I charge it at home not at work.  I keep a USB and charger in my bag but it is absolutely rare that I ever need it.


What's in it for phone makers and battery makers to adopt the technology?  If a phone battery lasts "forever", then why change phones.  Now that the battery in most phones is not replaceable, then the only way to get a new battery is to buy a phone.

I just don't see this happening anytime soon.  Products have to be disposable, if not, companies don't make money.  Companies cannot rely solely on new customers for revenue.

I'm interested in the dual carbon battery technology that is under development from a Japan based company. It's great that they are finding this information on current batteries but if the dual carbon batteries work then lithium-Ion will be obsolete.

I get 8 hours on my 1020. Glance, Bluetooth, NFC turned off, everything else on. Two Yahoo accounts, one Gmail, one hosted Exchange account for work, Facebook, NBC News, Engadget, WPCentral, Accuweather apps. Off the charger in the morning, dead by the end of the day...

It's funny to me that the picture is of a Samsung battery. I get support calls all day long about the batteries in the S3/S4 "going bad" or not charging. So frustrating. Actually on a call right now for the S4.

...but how would battery manufacturers make money? Batteries need to die and get replaced =)

Or I guess the device would end up dying first.

We always hear about these great breakthroughs with battery technology, but capacity and longevity never seem to improve. This is where the focus needs to be to take smartphones to the next level. The hardware is getting more efficient and powerful, but at some point that gap between power and efficiency will be closed and the only other answer will be improved battery technologies.

Just keep these hints in mind:

Don't drain the battery to zero. This shortens life more than anything.

Try to charge battery when 30% or below.

Don't leave device plugged in once 100% reached.

Note the NASA Mars rovers which are still running. They stated the optimum charged level is 60%-70%.

This is old news. Been known since the 1950s.
Case is battery manufacturers are against the charging way that could improve battery life with years.
Know this first hand from a friend who worked at a big cell manufacturing company in the charge division. He tried to get them to implement improvements.

Who's gonna make money off this discovery ? NOBODY , so why bother ? i mean, scientists could probably make a car run on water, but then why bother ???

I always notice batteries going bad.  Right now my iphone5 is getting close to 2 years old and its no fun to deal with.

I stopped using a PC and laptop and switched to just having a surface tablet.  Aside from good battery and mobility my favorite part is how cheap it is.  I can replace it every year.  Looking forward to Surface 3 because my Surface 2's battery already feels weaker than it was 6 mo ago.