A mobile phone battery that can be almost completely charged in just 60 seconds. That is the claim put forward by Toshiba, which has developed prototype batteries that recharge 60 times faster than current models.

The prototypes - which could be on sale within three years - are lithium ion like most existing batteries but contain a material in the negative electrode that is able to absorb power in super-fast time, said Masayuki Ishikawa, assistant director of Toshiba's research centre.

Lithium ion batteries charge by absorbing ions in the negative electrode, and they discharge when ions flow from the negative electrode to the positive electrode. Conventional lithium ion batteries charge at a rate of 2 to 3 percent of their total capacity per minute and take an hour or more to fully charge, according to the company. In the new batteries that is reduced from an hour to a minute.

Toshiba has developed two types: a smaller 3.8mm by 62mm by 35mm version, weighing 16 grams with a capacity of 600 mAH (milliamp hours); and a larger 6.5mm by 110mm by 70mm version, weighing 95 grams but with a capacity of 3,200 mAH. The company did not disclose their voltages.

The smaller prototype retains 99 percent of its capacity after being charged 1,000 times, and fast-charging batteries will have about the same life as their conventional cousins, said a spokesman.

Toshiba intends to commercialize the battery technology for automotive and industrial applications in 2006, then it will move to consumer electronics devices such as notebook PCs, mobile phones and other devices, he said. "Technically, there is no problem to use this technology for mobile phone batteries," said a spokesman.