MIT scientists have redeveloped the lithium battery in a breakthrough that could see batteries recharging in seconds.

Ordinary lithium batteries dispense power slowly and charge slowly, but the batteries the MIT boffins are working on can be fully charged and fully discharged in less than 20 seconds.

The research, headed by Gerbrand Ceder, the Richard P. Simmons professor of materials science and engineering at MIT and Byoungwoo Kang, a graduate student, has found that the slow speeds can be speeded up by changing the substrate around the lithium, allowing it to move faster.

"The ability to charge and discharge batteries in a matter of seconds rather than hours may open up new technological applications and induce lifestyle changes", the team have said in a paper published in Nature.

The new technology could be available to consumers in around 2 or 3 years.