Whenever my phone dies, I like to be tactful; I prefer to say that it “passed away.”
Hey there, power hungry people, I’m Jules, here for DNews.
Smartphone batteries suck.
Actually, all commercial batteries suck, and that’s kind of a big problem.
Every new smartphone iteration seems to have twice the megapixels, three times the storage space,
no headphone jack, and… barely better battery life.
And that battery life isn’t even guaranteed.
On an average smartphone, the lithium-ion battery is generally expected to last between 300 and 500 charge cycles,
and many of us do go through an entire charge cycle every single day.
So the fact is, smartphone batteries aren’t really meant to stay fully functional for more than a year.
The problem comes from the fact that since the late 1970s,
there hasn’t really been a revolutionary commercial breakthrough in battery technology.
Nearly all rechargeable modern batteries work by creating electrical current from the movement of lithium ions between electrodes,
and for this purpose, lithium is amazing.
It’s the least dense metal and has the highest energy-to-weight ratio of comparable metals.
So when we made the shift from chunks of lead floating in acid to slick smooth lithium as a source of storable energy,
batteries became portable and lightweight.
It was an amazing breakthrough and changed consumer electronics irrevocably…
but that was 30 years ago.
Today, we still use those same batteries.
But that’s not to say that battery life isn’t getting better, and sometimes in unexpected ways.
Just this year, the iPhone 7 Plus came out with about an hour more battery life than the iPhone 6S Plus.
But the battery capacity is only a tiny bit larger.
The trick is that what we call “battery life” is actually capacity divided by consumption, and while capacity is stagnant, power consumption is not.
The new iPhone processor chip uses only two-thirds as much power as the previous iteration,
while reportedly increasing performance by 40%.
Basically, the less power your phone uses, the better its battery life, without making any substantial changes to the battery itself.
Every year, computers and smartphones are able to do more with less.
But that doesn’t quite solve the bigger problem: batteries wear out and become useless pretty quickly.
According to Apple, on their Macbooks, after about 1000 cycles,
you’re left with only about 80% of the battery’s original capacity, maybe less, and it only gets worse from there.
To solve this seemingly unavoidable issue, researchers from University of California,
Irvine accidentally invented a battery that never dies.
Well, seemingly never.
Apparently, a doctoral candidate in their research lab was fooling around, and as we all do for fun, she coated a set of gold nanowires in manganese dioxide, and then sealed them in an electrolyte gel.
Hahaha, oh those scamps!
The trick is that nanowires conduct electricity very very well, and have a large surface area to store and transfer electrons.
But these wires are also SUPER fragile, and they tend to break down after use.
But coating the wires seems to have solved this major problem.
In the lab, this mini-battery went on to experience 200,000 charge cycles.
That's roughly 500 times more than the expected optimal lifecycle of a lithium-ion battery,
while still operating between 94 and 96 percent efficiency.
Even after three months, the normally super-fragile wires were still fully functional.
Although its in the early research stage, scientists think this battery could last up to 400 years.
But your smartphone is still gonna die within a few years,
and that's because it's using technology from the 1970s.
It's optimized, but obsolete.
A number of tech groups have developed small scale solutions,
a combination of which may prove to be the next big battery breakthrough, but as for now, most solutions are impractical
due to cost, longevity, and most importantly, safety.
New batteries need to be tested for a long time before they’re introduced on the market.
Just look at the Note 7.
For now, it looks like battery life will continue to suck.
If you’re into finding out what makes things tick, like what’s in your electronics,
you’re probably like me and love the show How It’s Made.
Now you can watch this and other Science Channel shows on the Science Go App!
Check it out and download for free at your local App Store.
And if you want to know more how different types of batteries work in detail,
Trace has a video all about that here!
Is battery life your biggest phone complaint?
What other phone improvements do you want to see?
Let us know down below in the comments and don't forget to like and subscribe for more