Dubai, UAE, October 07, 2018: Battery life is the Sword of Damocles hanging atop of smartphones. It is the weakest link in the long line of features that smartphones have for delivering a quality user experience. The industry has largely been addressing the issue via one of two ways: either by adding a fast-charging feature, or increasing battery charge density.
Fast charging technology is composed of fast charging circuit and fast charging battery. To explain this technology in the simplest of terms: A battery is a container of energy and charging is the act of filling the container. The circuit is the pump whereby energy is pumped into the container. The quicker the circuit pumps energy into the battery, the quicker it charges—but with a quicker charge rate also comes with a higher battery stability requirement.
Most of the current fast charging technologies optimize the charging circuit, such as Qualcomm Quick Charge, Huawei SuperCharge, OPPO VOOC, and support a power rating of about four to five amp. To further improve the charging speeds of batteries requires support for higher current, which in turn requires new breakthroughs in fast charging technologies, which may entail new battery materials or designs.
The second approach concerns the improvement of energy density, which will allow manufacturers to increase the capacity of batteries without increasing their physical size. This approach requires manufactures to adopt new materials—but it's a costly and difficult process. So far, we've seen manufacturers adopt graphite, silicon compounds and lithium-based materials.
To fundamentally improve the battery life of smartphones, manufacturers cannot go for either one of the approaches—they have to pursue both of them simultaneously. A true leap in battery life is long overdue and consumers are longing for it—but when will it come?
China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) has published Huawei's patent on lithium battery. It is an exemplification of the two aforementioned approaches: The patent concerns an all-new lithium ion secondary battery with new anode active materials. By introducing high-density silicon material system and incorporating heteroatom into the silicon materials, Huawei provides a fast pass for lithium-ion migration during the charging process, which greatly improves the fast charging capability of the batteries.
According to industry experts, the reason why Huawei used silicon materials in lithium ion batteries is that it has much higher lithium capacity than graphite, which is the most commonly used anode materials. It means silicon materials can contain more energy and thus improve energy density of lithium ion batteries.
The nitrogen-doped carbon can be used to bound and limit the expansion of silicon material. The nitrogen atom and the carbon atom are combined in the form of pyridinic-N, graphitic N, and pyrrole-N to establish a 3D carbon network, which can restrain the high-capacity silicon material. The nitrogen-doped carbon network can increase the overall conductivity of the silicon compounds and nitrogen-doped carbon materials. This adds space for the physical collection of lithium ions, enabling it to collect lithium at rates that are not achievable via chemical means.
If this assumption is true, it's likely that this patented technology is an iteration of the battery used in the Honor Magic device. That's also an improved version of Huawei's ultra-fast charging technologies presented on 56th Battery Symposium in Nagoya, Japan. Just like how multi-touch technology changed the way displays work, Huawei's ultra-fast charging technologies will redefine the way people use smartphones and free users from nomophobia—the fear of having no access to phones.
The invention is truly next-gen. With the invention detailed on the patent, Huawei can design larger batteries that charge faster and support a higher current. This ensures the batteries created with this invention are safer and deliver a longer battery life.
It's also worth mentioning that Huawei's ultra-fast charging technologies have applications outside consumer electronics. For instance, they also have a place in electric cars. Is Huawei going to further expand its business? The public is free to speculate. However, from this we can see that whilst battery R&D is expensive, it also comes with high returns.