Before lithium-ion batteries, portable gadgets were a nightmare, forcing road warriors and Discman-toting teens to either swap disposable cells or deal with rechargables that (with few exceptions) were tricky to recharge. Of course, Li-ion batteries also have a downside: as laptop and cell phone users have no doubt found out, they too become disposable before long. One reason why is that acid in the electrolyte can corrode the cathode material -- and now, Hitachi claims it's found a way to strengthen its own. Using an undisclosed combination of elements to replace some of the manganese used in the company's cathodes, Hitachi claims they can strengthen their crystalline configuration to resist acid, reduce cost, and best of all, double the usable life of a lithium-ion cell to about ten years. We've heard similar claims before, of course, with other battery manufacturers promising us twenty years, but it looks like this technology might make it out of the lab. NEDO, a Japanese government organization, has commissioned Hitachi to bring these batteries to life for industrial applications like wind farms. Cell phones, sadly, will have to wait.

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Hitachi claims secret chemical formula will improve battery cathodes, double longevity