Lab accident leads to discovery of battery that lasts 400 times longer

Researchers at UC Irvine may have found a way to design a battery so it doesn’t lose its charge after years of use. The researchers discovered that by using a gold nanowire in electrolyte gel rather than lithium, the battery could withstand 200,000 charging cycles and only lose five percent of its capacity.

Lithium batteries are subject to some corrosion after consistently being depleted and recharged. One of the researchers explained to Popular Science’s Dave Gershgorn the process was like pouring water between two cups, eventually some liquid is going to spill. Since smartphones have a lifespan of about two years until they’re traded-in, this problem rarely rears its ugly head. But for devices with a longer shelf-life, like laptops and tablets, the issue becomes apparent as the years wear on.

However, researchers aren’t quite sure how this new design yielded such amazing results. “We started to cycle the devices, and then realized that they weren’t going to die,” Reginald Penner, a lead author of a paper on the research published in the American Chemical Society’s Energy Letters, told IBTimes. “We don’t understand the mechanism of that yet.”

Researchers have been looking for the alternative to the lithium battery. It’s been long-theorized that nanowire might help increase longevity, as their high surface area can hold an electric charge. However, a nanowire submersed in lithium corrodes after only a few thousand cycles.

The researchers at UC Irvine went a different route, coating the gold nanowire in a protective manganese dioxide sheath and substituting the liquid lithium for a more dense electrolyte gel. “Mya [Le Thai] was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it,” Penner said in a statement. “She discovered that just by using this gel, she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity.”

The researchers realize the amount of gold nanowire needed to create this battery would drive up prices, so they suggest nickel could be a good substitute for mass production.

Image credit: Steve Zylius / UCI

 

Source: Science – Geek.com

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