Smartphone batteries could improve 300pc thanks to new Irish nanomaterial

21 Feb 2019

Image: © kozirsky/

Researchers from AMBER have forged a new nanomaterial that could make significantly better batteries for smartphones and electric vehicles.

A recent poll conducted by Statista showed that 95pc of people looking to buy a new smartphone see a great battery lifespan on a single charge as a deciding factor in their choice. So, the fact that an Irish team has created a new material that could drastically improve the average lithium-ion battery should come as welcome news.

The Science Foundation Ireland centre for Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research (AMBER) based at Trinity College Dublin announced the news this morning (21 February), describing a new ink-based nanomaterial dubbed MXene. The researchers behind the breakthrough said it will potentially enhance the lifespan of rechargeable batteries, while also allowing them to become smaller without a loss in performance.

In numbers, this could see the current average battery life of 10 hours’ talk time boosted to between 30 and 40 hours. For electric vehicles (EVs), it could lead to an average range of up to 500km on a single charge, making them more competitive with internal combustion engine cars.

Previous attempts to reduce the size of lithium-ion batteries in devices of all shapes and sizes have been limited due to the fact they rely on internal chemical reactions to store and emit energy. Contained within the battery type are anode and cathode electrodes as well as a liquid electrolyte. For the AMBER team, its focus was on using MXenes as a significant booster for the anode.

Thinking outside the box

Traditionally, the addition of conductive agents has ensured the charge transport throughout the electrode, while polymeric binders hold the electrode materials and the conductive agents together during charging cycles.

While additives are widely adopted in existing lithium-ion batteries, they fail to perform well when reaching for higher capacities. This is because the polymeric binders are not mechanically robust enough to withstand the stress induced during usage, leading to cracking, severely disrupting the conductivity within the electrode.

With MXenes, however, the AMBER team demonstrated unprecedented performance, surpassing anything reported so far.

“Despite progress in batteries’ development, there has been limited success in extending lifetime and improving their energy storage capabilities,” said Prof Valeria Nicolosi, AMBER’s lead investigator on the project. “A lot of it has to do with the need to look outside of box for solutions – specifically at new materials capable of surpassing the conventional technologies.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic