Researchers in the United States have developed an entirely new type of nanomaterial - dubbed nanoscoop - that could enable the next generation of high-power lithium (Li)-ion rechargeable batteries for electric automobiles, laptops and cell phones.

Charging a laptop or cell phone in a few minutes, rather than an hour, using nanoscoops as the anode architecture for Li-ion rechargeable batteries is a very real prospect, researchers say. The technology could also potentially be ramped up to suit the demanding needs of batteries for electric automobiles.

The new nanoengineered batteries developed at New York-based Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute showed remarkable power density, charging more than 40 times faster than today’s lithium-ion batteries.

The shape of the new material resembles a cone with a scoop of ice cream on top, and the nanoscoops can cope up extremely high rates of charge and discharge, researchers say.They showed how a nanoscoop electrode could be charged and discharged at a rate 40 to 60 times faster than conventional battery anodes, while maintaining a comparable energy density.

Too great a stress that builds up too quickly, as in the case of a battery charging or discharging at high speeds, can cause the battery to fail prematurely. The research team’s nanoscoop, however, was engineered to cope up the stress. The structures are flexible and able to quickly accept and discharge Li ions at extremely fast rates without sustaining significant damage, they say.

The team says it will explore growing longer scoops with greater mass and on large flexible substrates that can be rolled or shaped to fit along the contours or chassis of the automobile.