Whoever, or, rather, whichever team, as scientific discoveries today are rarely made by a single person, reinvents the battery, will become billionaire overnight is the common understanding of Wall Street analysts betting on breakthroughs in battery tech.
It won't be long before everything - from our cell phones, through our cars, to our houses - uses some sort of electricity storage that ought to be cheaper and much more efficient than what we have now. The current Li-ion technology has been good to us, but is nearing its limits, with potential about 30% above current levels at the maximum, and that's that, say researchers.
By now we should have been on the cusp of battery technology breakthroughs that would allow our spec'd-out smartphones to last for days, our cars to drive 500+ miles on a charge, and our houses to store enough energy derived from solar panels or other sources to last days on end without resorting to the grid. Well, inventing those puppies proved harder than everybody thought, and progress is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.
One such battery tech "evolution" research phase has just been completed by the braniacs from the Toyota Research Institute of North America. It basically uses magnesium, instead of the volatile lithium that is in current smartphone batteries. When good ol' lithium steps aside and gives way to magnesium, we can expect 8 to 12 times higher energy density than a lithium battery, and 5 times higher charge-discharge efficiency.
This is because the magnesium ions in the electrolyte carry a double positive charge, elevating the overall energy density amount that can be stored for any given battery pack size. There are still obstacles to be overcome, but the Toyota researchers below are making their findings public with the hope that other teams will pick the idea, too, and speed up the development of commercially viable magnesium-ion batteries. Here's to hoping.