One of the problems with the use of rechargeable batteries, particularly batteries used as a replacement for liquid-fuel systems (such as in cars), is that they take awhile to recharge. And while current-generation nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion batteries are much better than older nickel-cadmium batteries, they can still take more time to recharge than one might want. But this may soon change:
NEC Corp has developed a battery that can be recharged only in 30 seconds, company sources said. Called an organic radical battery, it can be recharged to the same level of power as that stored in nickel-hydrogen cells, which are widely used in digital cameras, portable MD players and other electronic devices.
It takes only about 30 seconds to recharge the battery enough to allow 80 hours of continuous operation of an MD player, compared with around an hour needed by conventional rechargeables, the company claims.
The cost, once production ramps up, should be about the same as a current NiMH battery. This technology should be of particular interest to manufacturers of hybrid cars, which currently use NiMH batteries. Here's why:
Hybrid car batteries are recharged via regenerative braking, vehicle momentum, and directly from the gas engine; since it normally happens just in the course of regular driving, the driver doesn't notice how long it takes for the batteries to top back up. (In less-common circumstances, such as driving over mountains, the fact that the batteries don't charge as quickly as one would like can be a bit more disconcerting.) The time it takes for the batteries to be recharged under normal driving conditions is a function of battery recharge speed and the amount of power returned via braking, etc.; logically, this is a key engineering factor when determining how much battery power can be used to replace or assist the gasoline engine. A shift to faster-recharging batteries could then make it possible to use the batteries more often, thereby making the overall mileage and emissions of hybrids even better.
Interesting that they don't mention the overall projected life of the battery - or am I missing something?
This bit - "NEC believes the battery can be used as an emergency power source for computers in case of blackouts as well as in hybrid cars driven by a gasoline engine and electric motor" - tells me that the NEC isn't planning to have this replace presently used rechargeables quite yet. Still, pretty exciting!
The "rapid discharge" capability is also interesting. In that I hate to say this, but this type of battery may be useful in energy weapons.
Current railguns and short pulse lasers charge large capacitors over time that discharge to fire the weapon. This could reduce the charging cycle.
I just blogged this over at KineticWorld.com. This is very exciting news as a lot of us build battery powered artworks. Depending on the setting we often have to bring a crate of fully charged batts, or worst case just buy a bulk pack of alkalines.
Of course this is all assuming they bring smaller, and standard, form factors to market.