Sweet, sweet science is on its way to finding a cure for how lithium-ion batteries (like the one in your phone) lose their ability to hold a charge over time. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley, Brookhaven, and Stanford have found a pattern to the erosion that happens at both anode and cathode ends of the battery, when previously it was assumed the erosion was uniform. The salt that forms at the anode side and the metallic erosion on the cathode side both latch onto microscopic imperfections, kind of like how a water droplets latch onto a piece of dirt to begin forming rain or a snowflake.

With deeper understanding of these erosion patterns, researchers are already digging into solutions to the problem. Scientists at Berkeley are already working on a powder that will counteract small-scale imperfections on the anodes and improve overall battery life.

This research is still in the early stages, so it's hard to say exactly how much more long-term battery life we can eventually expect from this research, but it sure is promising. We use lithium-ion batteries a lot, and since the core battery technology doesn't change often, every improvement we see is welcome. Be sure to dig into the article at the source link for more of the scientific nitty-gritty.

Are you happy with your phone's battery life? How long is it until your battery can't hold a respectable charge anymore?

Source: BNL; Via: Gizmodo


Reader comments

Scientists now know why rechargeable batteries go bad, and may know how to fix them


About damn time!

I'm happy with my 4 month old Note 3 battery but it has, somewhat, decreased in battery life.

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I haven't seen much decrease in my Note 3 battery which is about 4 months old. Then again I don't really go more than 8 hrs without her being on some charger

~My $0.02~

I think most people on here use their phones a lot. I have a feeling you might have something else on your phone eating battery....

That depends on the degree of "a lot". I know people they say they use a lot their device but their pattern of use differs a lot to mine. Resuming, my use has more battery impact than theirs. In any case, after almost a year I can see less battery life for a full charge on my S4 9505.

I'd have to agree with this statement. I'd say I use my phone a lot. But when I use it a lot, I am usually just reading. I've had my N5 for about 6 months and I honestly haven't really noticed any change in the battery life over time. Maybe it's just because Franco does such a great job with his kernels.

Noticing a huge difference in my 6 month old Droid Maxx.

Isn't one of the biggest reasons Batteries in phones fail is because we leave the chargers plugged into the wall, and the chargers stop charging the phone properly which hurts the battery life. I have been trying to research USB outlets to see if they have the same problem.

Actually, Li-Ion batteries have kind of the inverse problem as NiCd batteries. They don't develop a "memory" from charging them too soon, but you can kill them by letting them get too low. Also, heat is very bad for Li-Ion batteries.

Leaving the charger plugged into the wall has no effect. These batteries have a circuit in them that monitors charge levels and automatically prevents overcharging because, well... over charging a Li-Ion battery is *bad*. Very, very bad.

What you can do to help your battery's longevity is not to keep using the phone if you're low. Once you start getting the 5% warning, it's time to turn it off unless you *really* need it. Let it get too low, and it's dead, just like a car battery.

No, you won't kill your battery by letting it get too low.
Your phone won't let you, and neither will the battery protection circuit built into every battery.
It doesn't happen in modern electronics. You can use it till the phone shuts down automatically, and you will still not have put your battery in the danger zone.

You're right about the auto shutoff, but I have seen people repeatedly turn their devices back on after the device keeps shutting off.

The new studies in battery technologies show that you can get bigger storage capacity and longer usage with capacitors. Capacitors will be the wave of the future especially with electric vehicles.

I have two batteries and swap them back and forth. One charges while the other is in use. Haven't seen either go down in capacity

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I do the samething, well most of us are..but some of the them are not aware of this swapping the battery thing..

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I do the same.

I'm the kind of guy who stops a microwave at one second to feel like a bomb defuser.

I have been reading about amazing battery technology since I was a freshman in a High School Musical about empty promises.

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This article got my hopes up for improving batteries in general but you both make a lot of sense so I guess we have to wait and wait until they actually do something

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+1 and even if they figure it out they won't put it into practice. There's too much money to be made from replacement batteries.

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I know, it's like nuclear fusion. I wish this was the area they pumped serious R&D cash into, not damn screen size and never ending pixels. The storing of power energy is going to be a huge issue and not just mobile devices, but for things like renewable energy and the national grid. It seems weird the level of tech we have in some areas it makes battery's look primitive, I guess battery technology just isn't sexy enough for some.

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Isn't it ironic how much progress technology has made over the last couple decades yet neither the combustible engine nore the battery has gotten any better? More reliable perhaps, but no real revolutions. Really anything that produces or stores energy for that matter. Kinda makes me wonder.
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We really only moved from NiCd to NiMH to Li-Ion over the last 10-15 years or so. Honestly, the batteries we use in devices these days are actually Lithium Polymer, because true Lithium Ion batteries are extremely fragile. There have been experiments with other technologies, but none of them have proven as efficient or as robust as the Lithium Polymer battery.

Same with cars. There's lots of research into alternative engines, but nothing has proven as efficient (in a mechanical sense) as the gasoline-powered combustion engine. The first electric car actually pre-dates the combustion engine-powered car. One of the earliest known design for an electric vehicle is from 1829.

But gasoline has the highest energy-by-volume of any "stable" fuel source, so we continue to use it. Granted, you could make relatively efficient vehicles powered by hydrogen (fuel-cell) but it takes so much energy to get the hydrogen that it's really almost not worth it. Same with electric cars. Their efficiency is still too low, plus you're not really getting the earth-friendly effect you intended if you're still charging it with power from a coal-plant. There are alternatives to coal energy, but they are much more expensive. There's always a trade off in physics.

Electric cars are very efficient. Good enough that even that they are still more efficient than a conventional car when the electricity is made from coal. The electric drivetrain is better than 80% conversion the battery conversions efficiencies (charging and discharging) are in the 90%s. The problems of electric cars are one of storage capacities and and recharging times not of efficiency (even when powered by coal burning plants).

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Also gasoline doesn't have the highest energy density. For example; diesel fuel have a higher energy density and is safer. Gasoline was convenient and easily combustible at the time of its adoption with the technology of the time. And now we have a huge infrastructure to deliver gasoline. Any competing technology has to compete with that infrastructure as well as the efficacy of the mobile power source.

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Admittedly, I was grouping gasoline and diesel together. And electric drive trains are fairly efficient, but the discharge from the battery is not as much so. A fully electric car has problems with distance capability and recharge times. I drive 37 miles one way to work. On days when I have to pick up my kid after work, I drive over 100 miles, and it's not like I can just pull over and "top off the tank". That's a big problem with electric vehicles as they stand now.

The Tesla S gets over 200 miles. Also there are other rechargeable battery technologies besides the three that people know. But I have to differ with you on discharge efficiency most modern batteries are pretty good until you get to the high discharge rate limits. Li-ion can be bad about that (relatively high internal resistances compared to many other modern batteries).

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The increased carbon footprint and other pollution that comes manufacturing electric cars (like the Tesla), plus the carbon footprint and pollution that comes from creating the electricity to charge them, plus the increased carbon footprint and pollution that comes from disposing of those batteries and electric motors is so huge that current electric vehicles are demonstrably, measurably WORSE for the environment that a comparable conventional turbo diesel. Selling electric cars is pretty much just as big a sham these days as corn subsidies to produce ethanol.

Me thinks there is a basic flaw in physics. Or, I want my fourth generation fusion reactor under the hood of my truck 20 years ago!

Or, I can dream.

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First muhahaaha!!! But yes this is intresting stuff maybe we can actually get a battery to last 2 years out of the box with the same capacity and stability

So, for now I can just sprinkle powdered sugar from say... a doughnut... on the connections and problem solved, amirite?

Sure, but you need to put it in the microwave for a few minutes so it's bake on. Let us know how it turns out.


I started noticing a decrease in battery life on my Galaxy S5 about a month into using it. During this time I made sure only to use the original charger and only charge it fully (no partial charging). Now that the battery is not holding it's charge as it did, I just don't really care and top it off when I need, or use a battery pack to charge. I'm on Verizon Edge, so in one year I'll get a new phone, so....

The panda has spoken

The batteries are generally only about $20 to replace. You might even talk the carrier into giving you one for free, if you've only had the phone for a month and the battery is already dying quickly. Make sure that you're not letting the battery get too low (like continuing to use the phone after the 5% warning) and don't let it get *too* hot. Granted, the phone is going to get warm during heavy use. Nothing to be done about that. But try not to leave it in a hot car or anything like that.

It seems to me that the battery manufacturers don't want you to have a long lasting battery because it cut down on they're sales.

Rechargeable A A batteries have been around for 20yrs, but people still waste money on regular non-rechargables.

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I think this will take a long time to happen. I believe that the battery degradation is by design. Think about it, after a year and a half/two years your battery holds about 80% less charge than it use to which pushes you to buy a new phone because most phones (Samsung phones are some of the few) have batteries that can't be replaced. Even Samsung, after the battery goes bad, you have to pay for a new battery and for the most part is probably better to just get a new phone anyway because the battery is $50+.

So I think we'll see longer battery life, but still have the same degrading of the battery.

I think most people buy new phones for new functions instead or solely for the purpose of replacing the worn out battery of their old phones

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Coming from someone who sells phones.... more than a few people buy new phones because they don;t want to spend $40 retail on a battery for a 2 year phone or older.

Last time I bought a replacement battery (admittedly, 2 years ago) it was $20 and came with an external charger.

That's not what people pay in a retail store. In a store they are $40 or more for a genuine battery. And while I wouldn't pay $40 for a battery either, at least most retail stores carry genuine batteries, I think anyone who has ordered batteries online can attest to the fact that more often than not they are either not genuine or show signs of use.

Bought mine in a Sprint store, and it was an HTC branded battery. Like I said, it's been a while, so it may well just be that prices have gone up.

Sprint sold me a bulk packaged S3 battery for $5. They have boxes and boxes of them for that very purpose.

They GAVE me a bulk packaged Epic battery because they needed rid of them.

I tried to get a battery for my HTC Arrive and they told me "it'll cost $50". The sales person told me I could buy one online for cheaper, but when I looked it wasn't an HTC battery and I didn't trust it.

A lot of people buy a new phone because they're battery is running low so what do manufacturers do? They close off the phone so you can't buy a new battery and replace it yourself. If the company replaces it for you it might cost more (haven't checked) because of labor costs.

Its great that you were able to buy your S3 battery for 5$ but maybe it was because you got a sales person who just wanted to sell you a battery while you go to another store and they would tell you they can't? All the carriers would give you at least one new battery free a year now they don't. Also your S3 does have a removable back cover so you can replace your own battery. Most phones do not have this. They claim its because they can make the phone thinner, but the Galaxy series is pretty thin and it has a removable back cover so I call foul on that. They don't because they want you to get a new phone.

I know plenty of people who have S3's because they didn't think the S4's were worth it but so maybe they are buying new batteries but again you can't do that with an iphone.

Anyone who pays $50 for a cellphone battery is a fool!!!!! $15 or less on Amazon. Stop being such foolish consumers people! Shop wisely.

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I would imagine the automotive industry is beyond thrilled with this research. That is one of the huge drawbacks to electric vehicles.

My darn nexus 5 has horrible battery life, but, I think that has something to do with google play services holding a wake lock for half a dozen hours a day. I should probably look into that, I wonder if there are any solutions. Anyone else have google play services wakelock issues?

Occasionally, reboot sorts it out. Sometimes it shows as G+ eating battery. Again, reboot sorts it out. Odd though.

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I've seen the same problem, but can confirm that wiping the phone and not re-installing all the apps stops the problem. I suspect it's got something to do with how some apps are using the Play Services and G+ API's. Hopefully Google will build some "oversight" into future versions of the API's to prevent apps from doing this. For now, try removing apps (particularly, recently installed ones, if this just started happening) and see if the problem doesn't go away.

Wakelocks will make any device have horrible battery life. Definitely get that sorted out. The Play services update a few months ago fixed the Play services wakelocks for me (and most others). I'd search XDA for some ideas. Make sure you uncheck scanning always available in the advanced wifi settings for starters.

Sounds kinda stupid... As battery technology improves.. I.e. Li-ion getting smaller but holding more power per hour than they did a few years back, you would expect them to have figured this out and gone on to solve this problem with advanced features even...wake me up when you invent a battery that last longer than two weeks on a single charge that takes less than 30min.!

Remember boys and girls, the first electric car was built in the early 1900s. We still do not have a great one after 100 years.

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I'll believe it when it happens. I've been reading articles about advancements with battery tech for years, and here we are in 2014, still nothing has reached the consumer market.

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Because nothing has proven efficient or cost effective. Often, new technologies like this take *decades* to perfect to the point where they're ready for general consumer use. Case and point, Li-Ion batteries have been around since the 70's, but didn't become common in consumer electronics until the late 90's to early 2000's.

This is bad news for companies like Apple that make gadgets with non-removable batteries. Longer battery life means customers will replace those devices less often.

Believe or not , Apple customers are last on the list of early upgrades. My brother 's iPhone 3gs and another friend's is still functioning fine as a daily driver.
iPhones are built to last - hardware and software.
VZW Moto X

I know a ton of iPhone 5s users and their biggest complaint is the battery life. They constantly have their phones connected to the charger and no they do not have a ton of apps running in the background.

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Only if battery was the reason people upgraded their phone. Which it is not. Do some research.

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I'm very excited for this! The biggest problem with buying an EV is that in 5 years or so you'll jave to chabge the battery that costs as much as half the retail price of the car.

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Sadly the author doesn't realise most new phones have now moved to lithium polymer technology.

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No, he's just following the current social trend of calling Lithium Polymer, Lithium Ion.
Kind of like how everyone has a Hoover when its really a Vacuum. Or Sellotape when it's sticky tape.

I easy get 24 hours of battery life on my Note 3 with heavy usage. Even after 24 hours there is still at least 25% remaining

Posted Via AT&T Galaxy Note 3