We have come a long way since our days of using feature phones, limited to basic functions such as making phone calls, sending text messages, etc. User requirements have been witnessing drastic change and so is state of smartphones. While innovation in the smartphone space has been phenomenal over the last decade, one specific user-requirement that has probably remained unchanged has to be the battery. It’s a no-brainer that battery is one of the key components in any smartphone. The battery keeps the show going. Despite the limited scope of innovation, smartphone batteries have grown in terms of their capacities over the last few years. In addition to much bigger capacities than ever before, software and system-on-a-chip have been optimized to an impressive degree to make the most out of the juice held by a smartphone’s battery. Normally, phones contain either Lithium ion (Li-ion) or Lithium Polymer (Li-po) batterie, and the one area we have not seen any change is the use of Lithium.
How do batteries work
In case you are wondering, any battery is comprised of three things: an anode (made of graphite), a cathode (made of lithium), and a liquid electrolyte. Anode is the positively charged electrode whereas cathode is the negatively charged electrode. Together, these two make the electricity flow within a battery and consequently into your phone by use of an external circuit. Electrolyte, on the other hand, is what allows positive ions to travel from one side to the other.
A cautionary tale – Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Do you remember the case of the Samsung Note 7 and its explosive batteries? In that particular case, something went wrong at Samsung’s battery manufacturing unit, which led to the whole Galaxy Note 7 fiasco last year. It was later revealed that they caught fire due to the liquid electrolyte material flowing out and coming in contact with air, causing a violent reaction. Samsung was then forced to abandon the Note 7 and instead focus on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+. Samsung has undoubtedly taken the whole Note 7 fiasco seriously and may just be readying the way to stop this from happening again in the future.
The Solution to battery problems is Solid
Solid State batteries, unlike Li-ion batteries, use a solid material to act a electrolyte, which is far less likely to ignite in the event the battery is damaged. Because of this, solid-state batteries are safer, more durable, and last longer. That aside, other benefits include better longevity, which electric vehicles could greatly benefit from. Besides electric cars, future flagship smartphones could last longer as well. Given that we cannot opt for any other material but Lithium to use in batteries, scientists at Samsung SDI have figured out how to improve battery safety by playing around with the nature of the electrolyte. According to one Samsung executive, the company will soon start mass producing solid-state batteries, which will be safer than what we currently use. He believes that it will take roughly two years for solid-state batteries to become commonplace. Interestingly, he has also acknowledged that LG’s battery unit LG Chem, is developing similar level of technology.
Is the Future of smartphone batteries solid?
While the Samsung executive admits that solid state batteries will be in mass production within two years, he admits that it isn’t a guarantee that smartphones will be the first to receive them. While smartphones are the most widely used piece of electronic with a miniature bomb powering them, requiring safety measures at the earliest, it is entirely possible that solid state batteries be first employed in electric vehicles. We can’t be sure of either at the moment, but, if the technology does become a reality, it would be great to see smartphones with a safer battery becoming commonplace.