A new technology of battery-making may potentially enable these energy sources to last 400 times longer than usual, a new study has found.
The technology makes use of a nanowire-based material that can be recharged for thousands of times, paving the way for the possibility that battery replacement may not be required anymore.
Nanowires are very tiny conductors that have long been a subject of battery-making production. This is because of their extremely thin structure, high conductivity and big surface area for the transmission and storage of electrons.
The main hindrances to nanowire-based batteries are the issues of fragility and inability to endure periodic recharging, discharging and cycling. When these nanowires are placed in ordinary lithium-ion batteries, they spread and become frail, resulting in cracks.
Solving The Problem With Nanowires
Now, researchers from the University of California Irvine were able solve the problem with nanowires. They did it by enveloping a gold nanowire in a manganese oxide covering and putting it inside an electrolyte composed of a gel that resembles a Plexiglas.
To test the invention, the team cycled it for 200,000 times within three months. They did not identify cracks and capacity or power deficiencies in any of the nanowires, making the combination an effective and potentially failure-resistant technology.
The researchers think the success lies in the goo increasing the fluidity of the metal oxide inside the battery, providing it with flexibility and protection against cracking.
"The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option," says study lead author Mya Le Thai.
Great Discovery By Chance
Aside from the expert knowledge of the scientists, chance also played a role in the discovery.
Senior study author Reginald Penner says Thai was just playing around, coating the entire thing with a thin gel and cycling it. She then discovered that using the gel could allow hundreds of thousands of cycles without capacity loss.
Penner says it would only take 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles to end these things in a dramatic way.
Thai says their work provides evidence that nanowire-based electrode can survive for long periods and can be turned into real functional batteries.
The discovery is said to be useful in providing commercial batteries for devices with prolonged lifespans such as computers, appliances, smartphones, cars and even spacecraft.
The study was published in the American Chemical Society's Energy Letters on April 20.