Single-cell batteries have an inherent design limitation that prevents them from producing more than 4 volts—they simply can't do it, there isn't enough energy density to produce that extra bit of output. That is, until now.
"This is what you would call a quantum leap," Army researcher Arthur Cresce said in a press release. "We've gone from circling around a certain type of four volt energy for quite a while. All of a sudden a whole new class of batteries and voltages are open to us. The door is open that was closed before." This breakthrough comes after years of research by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory into how the various battery components interact with one another.
The research team found that the inclusion of a specific, proprietary (and now patented) additive bumps the battery output from four volts to five—that's a 30-percent increase and a huge deal. As Cynthia Lundgren, chief of the electrochemical branch at the USARL explained:
There has never been a battery, a single cell, that operated at five volts. Through our understanding of that interface, we were able to design an additive that you add into the electrolyte that is somewhat of a sacrificial agent. It preferentially reacts with the electrode and forms a stable interface. Now the battery is able to operate at five volts.
This technology could see immediate use both on the battlefield and in your gadgets. The Army hopes this will lead to even more energy-dense technologies, freeing up precious pack space, while consumers should see better performance and longer life from their electronics. The technology can even be applied to renewable energy storage, helping drive wind and solar power adoption. [US Army via Treehugger]