Researchers at Hydro-Québec and McGill University in Canada recently published a new study in a Nature Communications paper, showing that self-recharging lithium-ion batteries (Li-Ion) could become a reality. Specifically, the study shows that a Li-Ion battery’s standard cathode can be treated with photo-harvesting dye molecules in order to make it sensitized to light, and the research team reportedly managed to simulate a charging process using only light as an energy source. The researchers hope that this breakthrough will allow for the development of self-recharging batteries for various devices, including smartphones and tablets.
While smart devices like handsets are becoming increasingly powerful with each new generation, researchers and device manufacturers alike are still tackling the problem of battery life by advancing battery technology and making other device components less power-hungry without compromising performance. Other device manufacturers give users an alternative in the form of battery packs, but regardless, most of these solutions continue to rely on conventional Li-Ion batteries that require a direct source of electrical current to be recharged, i.e. a wall socket, power bank, or an external solar charger. However, the aforementioned scientists have now managed to piece together a battery concept that might change battery technology in the future, though their solution only represents the first phase of their ambitious project, with the second phase aiming to build an anode capable of storing energy provided by the light-sensitized cathode. However, the job is already half-done, according to Professor George Demopoulos, and the research team is reportedly already on its way working on the second phase of the project following a $564,000 grant given by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. As to when the technology might be put into practice, the researchers believe that it may take a few more years before their project will be completed and ready for commercialization.
The study’s lead author and Hydro-Québec researcher, Dr. Andrea Paolella, says that their goal is to "develop a new hybrid solar-battery system," but depending on the amount of power generated by the miniaturized self-charging batteries, the researchers believe that the technology could eventually play a big role in the evolution of portable smart devices.