Solid-state battery — the successor to Li-ion — takes another step closer to our smartphones

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are the rechargeable cell of choice for smartphones and most of today’s other battery-powered gadgets. Despite their prevalence, Li-ion batteries are limited in power density, have reasonably short lifespans, and can become a fire hazard if damaged or incorrectly charged. These drawbacks could be a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future if gadgets move over to solid-state battery technologies.

New research out of a Columbia University Engineering team, via phys.org, has uncovered a method to stabilize solid electrolytes in lithium metal, a.k.a solid-state batteries. Utilizing a boron nitride nano-coating can produce batteries that offer up to 10 times the charge capacity of graphite based Li-ion batteries. In addition, ceramic electrolytes often used in solid-state battery design are non-flammable, reducing safety concerns.

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Solid state battery technology isn’t a brand new idea, but build materials, design safety, costs, and production techniques are hindering adoption. To understand why let’s dive into a little background on traditional Lithium-Ion batteries and why they aren’t so easy to replace.

The trouble with Dendrites

Besides costs, dendrites are the biggest problem with solid-state batteries. Dendrite is a crystal-like build-up of lithium metal that typically starts at the anode and can grow throughout the battery. This occurs as a result of high current charging and discharging, where ions in the solid electrolyte combine with electrons to form a layer of solid lithium metal.

Dendrite built-up reduces the available electrolyte capacity of the battery, reducing its store of charge. Worse still, large dendrite build-up will eventually pierce the battery cathode/anode separator, causing a short circuit that will destroy the battery and could cause a fire.

solid state battery dendrites

STRN Excessive lithium-metal dendrite growth can short-circuit a battery.

Today’s Li-ion batteries sidestep the dendrite issue by using liquid electrolytes for the conductive pathways, rather than a solid metal which would allow for ions to be packed closer together for greater capacity. Unfortunately, this liquid is flammable, which can cause Li-ion batteries to combust under high pressure, heat, or current. Graphite is then often used in the intercalated lithium anode material, offering long-term stability at some expense to maximum charge flow. Graphene and silicon-based alloys have seen their share of experimentation to improve performance.

Combined, Li-ion battery chemicals, materials, and construction limit the formation of dendrites by essentially reducing and controlling the flow of ions. The trade-off is a loss of battery density and capacity, and increased flammability and the need for safety protection. Solid state lithium metal batteries are considered the holy grail of rechargeable battery performance but are much more difficult to stabilize than liquid Li-ion cells.

How new research is solving the problem

Research from the Columbia University Engineering team, conducted with colleagues at Brookhaven National Lab and the City University of New York, offers a solution for the dendrites problem for solid state batteries.

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A  5 to 10nm boron nitride (BN) nano-film isolates the lithium metal and the ionic conductor. Insulating the two layers prevents a dendrite build up or short circuit, but is thin enough to maximize the battery’s energy density. The technology also uses a small amount of liquid electrolyte, but the design predominantly uses a ceramic, solid-state design for maximum energy capacity. This BN layer is designed with built-in defects, allowing lithium ions to pass through to charge and discharge the battery.

we’ve developed a lithium-metal-proof ‘vest’ for unstable solid electrolytes and, with that innovation, achieved long cycling lifetime lithium metal batteries.

Qian Cheng, postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University

In a nutshell, the team has created a very thin barrier that prevents dendrites from occurring. This, in turn, enables the use of very compact ceramic electrolytes, which offers greater capacity than traditional lithium-ion batteries, reduces the fire hazard risk, and prolongs battery life. The next stage of the research will investigate a broader range of unstable solid electrolytes and make optimizations for fabrication.

Liquid vs. solid-state battery tech

The Columbia University Engineering team isn’t the only game in town for solid-state battery technology. LiPON, LGPS, and LLZO material-based designs are also undergoing research in an effort to replace today’s Li-ion batteries. Most are aiming for similar goals, including higher battery capacities, longer lifespans, and lower risks of fire. The next major hurdle is bringing these battery designs out of the laboratory and into manufacturing facilities and products.

From a consumer perspective, the key benefits of stable solid-state battery technology are: up to six times faster charging, 2-to-10 times the energy density, longer cycle life of up to 10 years (compared to two), and no flammable components. That’s certainly a boon for smartphones and consumer electronic devices. The sooner it gets here, the better.

Best portable battery chargers (January 2019)

Smartphone technology has come a long way in the past few years, but there is a lingering issue that is taking time to evolve — battery life. Sure, batteries are getting bigger and phones more resourceful, but many of us still have a problem keeping our devices alive. One solution is to charge your phone throughout the day, something that proves to be an issue when there is no outlet around. The next best solution is to buy yourself a battery pack or one of the many portable chargers to charge on-the-go.

With so many options around, we know it’s hard to find the best units on the market. That’s why we’ve curated a list of the best portable chargers! While many use these devices to charge their phones, many modern electronic devices can be charged up including select laptops, tablets, and game systems like the Nintendo Switch.

Let’s get started and show you our picks for the best portable battery chargers you can buy right now. 


Best high-capacity options

Anker PowerCore+ 26,800mAh portable battery charger

Anker is a trusted name when it comes to portable battery chargers, and this particular option offers it all. To start with, you get the massive capacity of 26,800mAh, which is more than enough to fully recharge your smartphone multiple times. The power bank comes with three USB ports, including a USB-C port with 30W output to let you charge a MacBook and the Nintendo Switch. Like every portable charger on this list, you get protection from short circuits, overcharging, and current and voltage surge. The portable charger also comes with a 30W USB-C wall charger.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 26,800mAh
  • Output: 2 x USB ports 5V/3A max, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A or 9V~15V/2A or 20V/1.5A (30W max)
  • Dimensions: 166.1 x 80 x 23.1mm, 576grams
  • Current price: $129.99

RAVPower 20,100mAh portable charger

This RAVPower portable charger offers features that are similar to the Anker charger above, with a few key differences. The capacity is slightly lower at 20,100mAh, but the USB-C port offers a 45W output. The capacity is still more than enough to recharge a smartphone multiple times and the device can be used to charge laptops like Macbooks and the Dell XPS 13 or 15 as well. 4 LED indicators let you know how much charge the power bank has remaining. You also get a standard USB-A port that will let you charge a second device simultaneously.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,100mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB ports 5V/2.4A max, 1 x USB-C port 5V~15V/3A or 20V/2.25A (45W max)
  • Dimensions: 160 x 78.5 x 23mm, 400grams
  • Current price: $59.99

AUKEY 20,000mAh portable charger

Portable battery charger - Aukey

AUKEY is a pretty well-known name in the phone accessories industry. Its product lineup includes this 20,000mAh external battery that features a thin and slim design compared to the more bulky devices on this list. Even with its thin casing, it has four power output ports for charging up to four devices at once, including three standard USB ports plus one USB Type-C port to charge the latest smartphones.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A max, 3 x USB ports 5V/2A
  • Dimensions: 200 x 96 x 14mm, 435grams
  • Current price: $39.99
 

MAXOAK 50,000mAh portable charger

If you want to get a portable battery charger that can charge all of your smartphones, laptops, and tablets at once, then the MAXOAK charger may be for you. It not only has a massive 50,000mAh capacity, but it has no less than six charging ports. One of the ports has a 20V/5A charging capacity for laptops. Another port has a 12V/2.5A charger, while two others have a 5V/2.1A capacity. The final two ports have a 5V/1A capacity. It may not be the most portable power bank on this best portable chargers list, but it should be more than enough to cover all your charging needs.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 50,000mAh
  • Output: 6 ports (1 x 20V/5A, 1 x 12V/2.5Am 2 x 5V/2.1A, 2 x 5V/1A)
  • Dimensions: 205.7 x 134.6 x 33mm, 1.25kgs
  • Current price: $135.99
 
Looking for more high-capacity power bank option? check out our guide to the best ultra-high capacity portable chargers (26,800 mAh and above).

Best smaller capacity option: Anker PowerCore Slim 5,000mAh portable charger

Anker PowerCore Slim

The Anker PowerCore Slim, as the name suggests, is a thin, sleek, and ultra portable battery charger. The device comes with a 5,000mAh capacity, which should be enough to fully charge or get close to a full charge with most current smartphones. It comes with a single USB port that takes advantage of PowerIQ technology to allow for the fastest charge possible. While the PowerCore Slim may not be as feature packed as the other ones on this best portable chargers list, its portability is the biggest selling point.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 5,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x PowerIQ port 5V/2A
  • Dimensions: 124.5 x 63.5 x 10.2mm, 126grams
  • Current price: $29.99

Be sure to check out our guide for more portable chargers with a capacity of 10,000mAh or less.


Best for wireless charging power bank: AideaZ 20,000mAh portable battery charger

Portable battery charger - AideaZ

The Aidez portable charger not only has a battery with a big 20,000mAh capacity but also offers wireless charging. Owners can place compatible phones on top of the battery and charge them cable free. It also has two USB Type-C ports with Quick Charge support for a more conventional, and faster, phone charging experience. That means this portable battery can charge two wired phones and one wireless phone at the same time. The battery also has an LED indicator to let you know the exact charge percentage left in the battery.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,000mAh
  • Output: 2 x USB-C output ports (5~6V/3A, 6~9V/2A, 9~12V//1.5A), wireless charging
  • Dimensions: 170.2 x 61 x 22.9mm, 377grams
  • Current price: $44.99
 
 

Jump start capable battery pack: Beatit 500A 10,800mAh portable charger

The Beatit portable jump starter is ideal for anyone looking to address all their emergency power needs with a single device. This portable charger will jump-start a 3.0L gas or 2.5L diesel engine up to 20 times on a single charge. It also comes with three USB ports, including one with support for Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 and a USB-C port, to keep your devices charged on the go. There is also a flashlight with three modes — normal, SOS, and strobe. Considering all its features and its affordable price, this is one of the best portable battery chargers for anyone who is on the road a lot.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 10,800mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB port 5V/2A, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A, 1 x QC 3.0 port 5V/2A or 6.5V~9V/1.5A or 9V~12V/1A
  • Current: Start current 250A, Peak current 500A
  • Dimensions: 145 x 84 x 25.4mm, 454grams
  • Current price: $39.99

Best for solar battery chargers: RAVPower 25,000mAh solar charger

If you’re the outdoorsy type, this is the best portable charger to get. It offers a large 25,000mAh capacity and features a solar panel on top for charging the device while you’re out and about. It’s also waterproof and there’s a flashlight on board that can be used in case you run into trouble on your adventure. The power bank has three USB ports, including a quick charge port and a USB-C port. All of these features make it a great option for those who love to hike, camp, and do similar outdoor activities.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 25,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB port 5V/2.4A, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A, 1 x QC port 5V/3A or 6.5V~9V/2A or 9V~12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions: 233.7 x 99 x 38.1mm, 550grams
  • Current price: $52.99
For more solar battery chargers, be sure to check out our extended guide.
 

There you have it. These are our picks for the best portable chargers currently available! Now hit the comments and let us know which portable battery charger would you consider getting. Are there any other portable battery packs you think your fellow Android fans would like?

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