If you want a battery that charges in seconds rather than hours, you go for a supercapacitor. There are some catches to that, though: either you give up the long-lasting energy of a chemical battery (like the lithium pack in your phone) or have to resort to exotic storage tech to get a long lifespan. Drexel researchers think they have a better balance. They’ve developed electrodes based on a nanomaterial, MXene, that promise extremely quick charging times for chemical batteries. The near-2D design combines an oxide-metal ‘sandwich’ with hydrogel to create a structure that’s extremely conductive, but still lets ions move freely as the battery builds up a charge. In the lab’s design, you can charge MXene electrodes within “tens of milliseconds” — you could top up a phone in seconds or an electric car in minutes.
As is often the case, the big challenge is scaling this up to production-quality energy cells. It could be years before this reaches something you can buy. However, its very focus on supporting chemical batteries makes it more practical. Factories would only have to adapt to the new electrodes, rather than throwing out their existing battery know-how. If nothing else, the existence of the MXene design shows that ultra-fast charging is becoming more realistic.