We’ve all experienced the nuisance of a dying phone when there’s no outlet in sight, but that moment could become a relic of the past thanks to new technology being developed by an international team of 19 scientists. The group, led by the Institute de Recherche d-Hydro-Québec and McGill University in Canada, want their battery to harvest and store light energy all on its own – without the help of solar panels.
Lithium-ion batteries can only hold so much power, and must be recharged often. So researchers are developing a device that can harvest energy from light and store it. They just published a study showing a lithium-ion battery cathode can be sensitized to light by combining lithium-ion materials with dye molecules including solar cell technology. Here’s how study lead author Andrea Paolella of Hydro-Québec puts it: “In other words, our research team was able to simulate a charging process using light as a source of energy.”
The cathode is only half of the process. The researchers must develop an anode that can store the light energy. If they can accomplish that feat, they will have created the first 100 percent self-charging lithium-ion battery in the world. And they’re already at work on phase two.
“I’m an optimist and I think we can get a fully working device. Theoretically speaking, our goal is to develop a new hybrid solar-battery system, but depending on the power it can generate when we miniaturize it, we can imagine applications for portable devices such as phones,” said Paolella.
Phase two could still take years, but co-author George Demopoulos, a professor at McGill University, thinks this passive form of charging could be significant for devices of the future.
Nature Communications published the study online earlier this month. Scientists from institutions in Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom were also part of the research.