Is tin the secret to longer battery life?

Is tin the secret to longer battery life?
One of the great ironies of the mobile revolution is how we end up feeling even more dependent on cords, since we have to plug our devices frequently to recharge them. Battery recharging issues may have come to a head last year, when the first LTE devices shipped and users found they sometimes had to charge them twice (or more) a day, depending on usage.  Now it’s on everyone’s mind, and surveys show that smartphone users consistently rank battery life as one of the top qualities they seek in a handset.

But alas, physics is a tough task master, so there are only so many ways to improve battery life. You can make a device sip less energy, although this comes at the cost of reduced performance. The only major gains that hardware can provide tend to be major generational shifts in chips, as manufacturers introduce smaller transistors to their chips.

Increasing battery size is obviously another possibility, and is they route taken by the Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX, which achieves its astonishing battery life by packing a whopping 3300 mAH battery inside its chassis. But this solution quickly provides diminishing returns; customers adore battery life, but also love them some skinny phones that will slide into their pants pocket. The other problem is that making batteries larger also increases the charge time, a fact that RAZR MAXX and new iPad owners can both attest to.

The third solution is to increase the density at which batteries can pack electrons – literally to cram more charge into the same space. This is the ideal solution, but is also the hardest one – hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent researching how to increase battery density. That usually requires the introduction of new materials for the anode of the battery with something that holds more electrons than graphene. Silicon is a favorite choice of researchers, and could lead to a ten-fold increase in battery density.

The problem is that silicon is harder to make into anodes; people want better batteries, but they aren’t willing to pay as much as a used car for them. But according to researchers at Washington State University there may be a shorter-term answer: Tin anodes. Tin isn’t as good at packing in electrons as silicon, but it’s significantly better than graphene, packing in three times as many electrons. Another benefit is that tin anodes charge faster, so the increased battery life wouldn’t require an equally increased charge time.

Most importantly, tin is easier to manufacture. It can be electroplated right to copper wires (graphene requires an extra step to get it to adhere) so it’s possible that tin anodes could eventually be cheaper to produce. Grant Norton, head of the materials science team working on tin anodes, thinks this could move from lab to production fairly quickly if a tech company were to properly invest in the process.

So here’s hoping that soon tin will be in more than just our pop cans – let’s hope someone runs with this and gives us affordable battery life that lasts 2-3x as long as today!

source: WSU News via Forbes

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37 Comments

1. darktranquillity

Posts: 285; Member since: Feb 28, 2012

Why can't the companies pool the money that they waste on patent litigations for a greater cause like long lasting battery life?

8. QinEmpire

Posts: 145; Member since: May 16, 2012

That will probably happen if Samsung and Google stop copying Apple.

12. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

Is this another of Taco's notorious alt accounts? geesh.

18. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

Maybe he is strikercho's step brother

26. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

No not my account, but i agree with the statement.

27. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

of course you do. your a moron.

28. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

*you're The irony here of calling me a moron while making a grammatical error that's learned in the 3rd grade.

35. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

aww.. is da wittle baby troll picking on spelling again, thus proving that he has no actual argument left? aww.

29. Birds

Posts: 1172; Member since: Nov 21, 2011

Remixfa, I've had a crush on you for a long time now. You are the geekiest phone geek I know. :)

30. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

*starts playing some romantic bulls**t Italian music*

34. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

iiiiiiiiim in the moooooood for looooooove simply becaauuuuuse I aaaaaaaaaaaaaaam. :) or when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie.. thats amore. la lalala

24. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

People are talking that oil company's has bought up all the patents for better batteries. :)

36. Fallout09

Posts: 421; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

Would surprise me.... GE sat on a patent for a 10 year light bulb for like 10 years. I also remember GM buying a patent for a rotary car engine that get the same performance of a V8 while only running on 4 cylinders using 1/3 if the fuel.

37. troutsy

Posts: 383; Member since: Feb 17, 2012

I don't think that last part about GM is correct at all.

2. ryq24

Posts: 875; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

expect a chinese company to try to buy or copy this technology.

3. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

Motorola: get the f**k on this. Give us a new Razr Maxxed Out with a 3300 mAH battery and 63 hours of talk time. You know you want to.

4. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

I saw the razr and razr maxx have a high sarr rating. Wonder if the battery has anything to do with it.

6. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

Nah. Motorola phones almost always do. They skirt the edge of legal radiation limits because they stuff freaking powerful radios into their phones. It's why their reception and call quality are usually so good. No worries though. I've been using Motorola phones for years, and I have no crippling tumors yet. Though I have grown a third eye. And I can suddenly jump really high. And I have a voracious appetite for human flesh now.

9. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

I have noticed the sarr ratings for moto phones are usually high. All kidding aside I just don't like the idea of my phone pushing the legal limits of radiation.

23. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

Why? If it's still in the legal limits, it should be pretty damn safe. Look at Martin Cooper. He's been using cell phones for over 30 years and he's fine.

14. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

maybe taco should switch to moto, it might mutate him into an actual human.

16. EclipseGSX

Posts: 1777; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

...or the most terrifying beast on the planet earth

21. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1270; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

For that Moto is NOT at all enough... How about Cheap Chinese clone mobile phones selling for 10 to 20$ and SAR rating also in same range (10-20w/kg instead of

17. jmoita2

Posts: 930; Member since: Dec 23, 2011

LMAO!!!

5. farhanmohdyousaf

Posts: 16; Member since: May 21, 2012

yayyy i hope it gets into smartphones before i decide to buy my next one :) btw i have a technical question.. doesnt the charge time decrease if u use a higher voltage charger?

7. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

I think it can. Car chargers usually charge faster, but at least the rule of thumb used to be that you should only use a car charger when necessary.

10. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

Who really cares about the charge time anyway. A small price to pay for a larger battery.

13. GuiltyBystander

Posts: 199; Member since: Mar 05, 2012

Thankfully by the end of the year, we will have USB3 chargers so that should help with the charging times.

11. troutsy

Posts: 383; Member since: Feb 17, 2012

Charge time does get shorter, but battery life (in terms of number of recharge cycles) would be shorter and there would be much more heat generated on the phone. The batteries I've worked with are obsolete technology now, but the sweet spot was to charge at a rate of 10% of the total capacity per hour to preserve maximum life. It's not the size of the battery that affects the charging time, but rather Motorola may have chosen to charge slower for better battery life or is using a carry-over charger that was intended to handle much smaller batteries.

22. DigitalBoy05

Posts: 278; Member since: Jun 04, 2011

Thats genius if motorola is in fact making it take longer to charge to maintain a healthy battery. Its not like you can take the battery out on the maxx or razr if it craps out on you.

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