One of the many problems with the rechargeable lithium battery technology is that the materials on the inside fail the test of time, and they become corroded. In turn, that lessens the battery’s ability to hold a charge.
Most smartphones use a lithium battery, which means that users must recharge them at least once a day – it’s almost as if we have yet another landline situation on our hands.
So researchers have been focused on finding a worthy replacement for the lithium, and a team at the University of California, Irvine, has stumbled upon a breakthrough that could eventually lead to a revolution of how future batteries are constructed.
While their discovery is impressive, it’s not exactly the holy grail of battery technology that engineers and consumers have been waiting. The result is a nanowire-based battery material that allows incredible charging – possibly rendering the battery replacement obsolete.
Using nanowires in battery building means that the lifespans of commercial batteries would significantly increase, prolonging the usage times for smartphones, appliances, computers, and cars.
For the past several years, scientists have been looking at potential ways of using nanowire batteries, as they have high conductivity and surface area. However, there were still some challenges as their thin and fragile filaments could not withstand repeated cycling.
But UCI researchers were able to make nanowires resistant to cracking by using “gold nanowire coated with a manganese dioxide shell and placing it in Plexiglas-like gel electrolyte sheathing.”
Study leader Mya Le Thai and her team made sure the electrode was resistant by testing it up to 200,000 cycles over three months. There was not capacity loss or nanowire fractures during this time.
According to senior author and director of UCI’s Chemistry Department Reginald Penner, the fact that she coated the electrode with a very thin gel layer allowed her to could cycle the battery hundreds of thousands of times without experiencing loss of capacity.
A standard battery fails after about 7,000 cycles, but adding the gel would give the metal oxide its flexibility, which in turn can prevent cracking. Penner explained the finding is also a confirmation that “nanowire-based batteries indeed have a better lifespan and can soon become a reality.”
The study featured in the American Chemical Society’s Energy Letters shows that there’s clearly potential in using nanowire-based batteries to replace the standard lithium ones. It could change the future of electronics, allowing smartphone makers to offer something better to their consumers.
Image Source: Time