Why Can’t We Charge Our Phones INSTANTLY?

In Chemistry, Physics, Technology by Mystifact

Mobile batteries are known to suck. They barely last a full day and take at least an hour to fully charge up. Having seen how far technology has come; surely by now there should be batteries that last a lot longer than just a few hours – batteries that can charge up in an instant. Why hasn’t this technology been done? In fact, can it be done?

The Battery

Though in the worst of times you may not appreciate it, batteries really are a triumph of Science. They allow portable electric devices such as mobile phones, cars and laptops to exist, and without them, imagine tripping over all those tangled up cables running across your house! Despite such a breakthrough, batteries have their limitations; some of which can be really irritating.

What is a Battery?

A battery is simply a chemical reaction [1]. Generally speaking, a battery consists of an anode and a cathode with an electrolyte separating the two. The anode is negatively charged and the cathode is positively charged. Since there is a separation of charge, electrons want to travel to the cathode (positively charged node). The electrolyte separating them inhibits this; so, when you connect a wire from the anode to the cathode, electrons are now able to travel through to get to the cathode such that they are happy. When electron flow stops the battery is dead – these are the fundamentals of how a battery works.

 

Figure 1: Explanation of how a battery works with an image

 

How does a Battery charge?

You may be asking yourself; how does a battery charge up? Is it a tank you fill up with electrical charge, just like filling up a car with petrol? Unfortunately, not. If that was the case, it would take just a few seconds to reach full charge (100%). Remember when I said a battery is a chemical reaction? A rechargeable battery is a reversible reaction [2]. It simply does the reverse of what has been said above; electrons are taken from the positively charged cathode and deposited back onto the negatively charged anode to re-create this charge difference. Now that we roughly know how batteries function, we can now answer our main question!

Why do they take ages to charge?

To answer this question, we need to understand what resistance is. Imagine walking down an empty hallway; you are free to walk straight through at any speed you desire – this represents no resistance. The morepeople there are in this hallway, the harder it is for you to get to the other side – this represents more resistance. The higher the resistance, the harder it is for current to get through (Current is the flow of electrons!) [3].

Heat Dissipation

Here is another important analogy; when walking down an empty hallway, you walk through with ease, but when you walk through a very busyhallway, you must do work to get to the other side, making you all hot and sweaty – the same applies for current; where there is resistance, heat will be released when current passes through. Can we charge batteries faster? We sure can, but the heat produced won’t be dissipated fast enough. This heat eventually builds up and either melts or blows up the battery!

Samsung Note 7

You may have heard that the Samsung Note 7 has been permanently discontinued since these phones started randomly blowing up (making them dangerous) [4]. This isn’t because the phone attempted to charge their batteries faster, but is the result of making their batteries too small. Since the batteries were so small, the heat was not dissipated properly, thus this heat built up and caused the phones to blow up!

Is it impossible to charge a battery instantly?

Since everything has a resistance apart from Superconductors which occur at sub-zero temperatures, everything will produce too much heat when high currents are passed through. This means it would be impossible to charge instantly using traditional batteries. Scientists are constantly striving to find new ways to be able to innovate this field – in fact, some new advancements have been made! Graphene batteries are an example – they last a lot longer with much higher capacity and much faster charging times.

Summary

While batteries may be getting better and better, mobiles are also becoming more and more advanced. With more advanced technology, you need more power. These advancements include sharper cameras with higher resolution, apps that require higher specifications and so on. This extra power is provided by the so called ‘better’ batteries.

What about batteries that are actually better?

If a company claims its batteries are newer and longer lasting than previous generation’s; while that may be true, the phone’s improved specifications means they always end up feeling like no change has been made to battery life in these new phones. To put this into perspective, putting an iPhone 6S battery into a retro Nokia brick would mean the phone could last years and years due to its lack of need for as much power!


Here is a fantastic video to further explain how batteries work!

If you have any questions, leave them below and until next time, take care.

~ Mystifact


References:
[1]: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/electric/battery.html
[2]: http://www.explainthatstuff.com/how-battery-chargers-work.html
[3]: http://www.leonics.com/support/article2_2j/articles2_2j_en.php
[4]: https://www.highsnobiety.com/2017/01/23/samsung-galaxy-note-7-exploding-reason/

Please note; no copyright infringement is intended. All images used have been labelled for re-use on Google Images. If any artist or designer has any issues with any of the content used in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact me to correct the issue.

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