Everything seems to advance in the mobile sector except batteries. The manufacturers limit themselves to controlling their size, to adding new systems to facilitate their loading or to decide if we can change them for others ourselves or we will have to go to the technical service. But technology itself does not evolve and we have been dragging the same problems for years.
One of them is, of course, the degradation of the batteries. A problem that returned to the front because of the incidences of iOS 11 with the autonomy of the older iPhone but, in fact, has always been there, from the beginning of rechargeable batteries. With lithium, the memory effect disappeared, but the batteries continue to die irremediably over time. Let’s try to explain why.
The choice of lithium for electronic devices was logical, since it is the material that produces the lightest batteries of all the options available at the time. Whether it is a Bluetooth speaker that weighs four kilos or a 140 gram mobile phone, its battery will be made of lithium. It’s a battle that was played long ago and that won the current material, among other reasons because, as we said, it also made forget the memory effect.
The problem with current lithium batteries, and many before them, is that in their internal functioning is their own death sentence. The batteries are designed so that the anode and the cathode exchange ions, in this case lithium, through an electrolyte that must not be aqueous. The consequence of this process is that, at the chemical level, there are slight variations in the electrodes themselves, so that they progressively lose efficiency.
The chemical reaction that causes the transport of electrons, which is ultimately what allows the battery to deliver energy and receive it to recharge, slowly erodes the materials in a way that is not only unstoppable but also unpredictable. This erosion, similar to the effect of oxidation that occurs with iron in contact with air, is not uniform and what causes the battery to lose capacity. Milliamps / hour, to understand each other. A 3,000mAh battery will be 2,600mAh within a year, for example, with an uncalculated or calculable wear.
In addition, the system could not be otherwise because to cause the conversion of nickel oxide into metallic nickel it is necessary to have this type of imperfections that then attacks the process itself. As if that were not enough, the battery charge also generates a kind of salt mixture that also reduces the performance and capacity of the battery. So the batteries deteriorate when they power our devices, but also during the charges. And even if we limit the temperature to avoid unnecessary stress, they will continue to degrade until they become useless. Although we usually recycle them before reaching the point of zero charge.
Gizmodo said that scientists are already working on several developments that could end this wear and tear of the batteries with the uses. What for the moment causes batteries to deteriorate between 300 and 1,000 load cycles, although the figure continues to rise, it could be a history of having an atomic deposition system work that is already under study.
It may be possible to use atomic deposition to coat the NMC cathodes with elements that resist crystallization, creating nanoscale limits within the micron-sized powders needed at the forefront of the industry.
But this process is still far from being developed in a stable way and maybe by that time we are already handling batteries of another type. Like the batteries in solid state that already have half a foot in the market and that would allow to avoid warming, increase the density and with it load, and facilitate the absorption and delivery of energy. Until that comes, we will have lithium batteries or other substitute material that will continue to deteriorate with the passage of time. There will be no choice.