Pushing the Limits of the Smartphone Battery

Pushing the Limits of the Smartphone Battery

The smartphone is a transcendent innovation of a brilliant idea. As these devices have gotten more and more powerful, it has seen a situation where the batteries powering these devices keep having to outperform the batteries from the previous year’s devices. The technology, however, hasn’t changed very much in over a decade. Today, we take a look at modern smartphone batteries and innovations to power sources that you can expect to see going forward.

Cell Phone Batteries

Cellular phones have been on the market for much of the past 35 years or so. In the 1980s and early 1990s, cell phones were large devices that were powered largely by nickel-cadmium (NiCD) batteries. These batteries, like the devices they powered were bulky and heavy, and didn’t really last very long. They also degraded quickly, especially if they were charged while there still was a charge in the battery.

Soon, as the demand for cell phones started to increase, the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries began to be manufactured. This material was lighter and took less time to recharge; and, while they still suffered from what would be considered severe degradation today, it wasn’t as bad as the NiCD degradation. As this technology was developed in the late 1990s, the market for cell phones began to expand rapidly.

Smartphone Batteries

For years, devices were made with NiMH batteries that could be swapped as they degrade, but as the smartphone was developed the devices began to need a stronger power source to run devices that were effectively computers in your pocket. The Lithium-ion battery was developed. Unlike nickel-based batteries, lithium-ion batteries didn’t degrade, they lasted longer and were much easier and faster to charge. The one drawback was their price, which can be seen in the price jump in devices used nowadays.

Recently, innovations have helped develop what is known as the lithium-poly ion (Li-Poly) battery. This type of battery has 40 percent more power than the NiMH batteries, but costs are still too high for manufacturers to commit to a Li-Poly battery to anything but flagship devices.

Future Batteries

With so much changing about the way people use technology, there needs to be a concerted effort to enhance battery technology. Today, they have begun to replace the graphite found in today’s lithium-ion batteries with silicon. This improves the performance of these batteries by up to three times, but that is hardly the most interesting advancement. Some new technologies you are likely to see at some point in the next several years include:

  • Use of rectenna - researchers are trying to capture energy from Wi-Fi or other electromagnetic waves. Using a rectenna--which is an extra-thin and flexible radio wave harvesting antenna--to harvest AC power through a Wi-Fi signal found in the air and convert it to DC to charge the battery, or power devices directly.
  • You will recharge your device - What if you could be the source of power to recharge your devices? With the use of a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), you can harvest electric current generated by a host (a human) to power devices or recharge batteries.
  • Solid state lithium-ion batteries - Using solid electrodes and a solid electrolyte in a battery isn’t really that new. You can find them in some wearables, pacemakers, and RFID sensors, but because of the massive cost they present, they haven’t made their way into smartphones yet.
  • Peptide batteries - There has been a push to use biological semiconductors to charge devices. In fact one start-up, StoreDot, out of Israel, has a device that can charge a smartphone in 60 seconds. The same technology is being developed to make batteries.
  • Sodium-ion batteries - What if we could develop a battery using one of the most abundant metals in the world rather than an exceedingly rare one? That’s exactly what Japanese scientists are working on. By substituting sodium for lithium, costs of batteries would plummet.
  • Liquid Flow batteries - Scientists at Harvard and Stanford have been working on liquid flow batteries that may be able to extend the life of our favorite devices. IBM and ETH Zurich are two companies that have responded with their own development programs.

Modern Battery Myths and Best Practices

  • Myth: You should let your batteries drain to zero before recharging. This was true a decade or two ago, but modern smartphone and laptop batteries don’t need this.
  • Myth: Overcharging your batteries will ruin them. Again, this is only the case for much older devices. Today, modern smartphones and laptops have a failsafe to prevent overcharging. There is one caveat, on some smartphones, the act of charging produces excess heat. When charging for a long time, this heat can build up. You’ll always want to give your device room to breathe when charging, and avoid charging a device while it’s tucked into bed with you.
  • Best Practice: Never Throw Away Batteries. Like most modern technology, batteries contain a lot of dangerous elements that shouldn’t go into landfills. It’s best to recycle them. Depending on the type of devices you are recycling, we can help you. Reach out to us at 978-482-2020 to have that discussion.
  • Best Practice: Check Your Power Saving Settings. If your battery on your laptop or smartphone seems to drain too fast for you, your device should have some options to get more out of your battery. For example, reducing the screen brightness, changing how long your screen is on, etc. Some applications will chew up battery faster than others too.

As the world goes more mobile, it will be the batteries that allow for that mobility. If you would like to leverage mobility to kickstart your business’ productivity, our experts can help you by helping you procure the resources necessary to make secure mobility possible. Call us at 978-482-2020 to learn more.



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