Everything about rapid charging is quick. Though while it’s quick to top up your device, it’s also quick to burn out your battery entirely!
Science says so. And we have a diagram to prove it.
We’re seeing a lot of red.
Researchers at Purdue University in the United States, led by assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue Keije Zhao, made an essential discovery whilst generating the image above.
In an atomic-level examination of fast-charging lithium-ion battery electrodes, they found that the battery’s electrode particles (the lil’ circular guys stacked on top of each other) become damaged in the process of rapid charging. These 2D images were collected through scanning techniques and computer-enhanced images of the batteries – then compiled into the 3D images you see here.
What’s going on?
The process of degradation transpires when lithium ions pass at an unmanageable speed between internal electrode particles. Friction is caused by these lithium ions moving back and forth from the negative to the positive electrode, creating a certain amount of heat. What we see above is the breaking down of the molecules that power the battery due to this friction and heat. As a result, the device resolutely loses its battery capacity and shortens its lifespan.
Not to mention, a sly safety hazard emerges since batteries contain electrolytes with incendiary properties (batteries get hot). It’s becoming evident why air stewardesses are constantly asking you to make sure your phone is not abnormally hot during the flight. There’s a lingering risk those hot batteries could set the plane on fire.
Is battery degradation inevitable?
Zhao comments that, “The capacity of batteries is always dependent on how the lithium ions are used”, so even though fast charging batteries can be outfitted with thicker electrodes, it does not make a difference as to how much damage it will endure.
In the end, a battery’s degradation is not contingent upon whether it is labeled “rapid charging” or not, its just a reality that every time you charge your device, the battery deteriorates slightly. Subsequently meaning that a battery that depletes more frequently will always require a replacement sooner.
Finally, there are no universal standards for rapidly and efficiently charging batteries. “Rapid Charging” is a term that sets the precedent for these charging technologies, but there is no single protocol that encompasses all devices. Ultimately, until we can manipulate the speed at which lithium ions move between electrodes, batteries will undergo molecular damage. Like the sun rises.
As consumers, this is important to consider in the way of battery warranties, as you’ll want your next electric-based purchase to cover the costs of such degradation. You can check out Zapp’s warranty policies on its batteries here.