With the added importance of finding other sources of energy, researchers have focused for decades on increasing the staying power of batteries. The goal in virtually every case is to eliminate the need for having to repeatedly pay for a new battery. This can be expensive for everyone from large technology companies to consumers that also find such changes to be an annoyance.
The battery has become an important component in this effort, especially with the growing push toward the adoption of electric cars and other technologies that require their use. One university may have inadvertently stumbled upon the perfect creation of a new battery that rarely needs replacement.
At the University of California, Irvine (UCI), a researcher named Mya Le Thai was taking on this task when she decided to see what would happen with a new approach. After coating a shell of manganese dioxide over an entire gold nanowire, she then placed an electrolyte gel over the assembly.
UCI equates the gel to being sturdy enough to rival plexiglass. This allowed the filaments, which are incredibly thin and fragile when part of a standard lithium-ion battery, to become much stronger than before. That strength avoids the usual issue of the nanowires eventually failing because of repeated use.
To put the drastic changes in numerical terms, the usual number of cycles before a lithium-ion battery fails under repeated testing is approximately 7,000 attempts. However, over the span of three months, the coated nanowires were in virtually the same condition as when the test started after more than 200,000 cycles.
The battery project is being done in conjunction with work that’s also performed at the University of Maryland. To help create greater awareness of the breakthrough, UCI documented its work in a paper written for Energy Letters, a journal produced by the American Chemical Society.
This is the latest in a series of steps forward in the field of nanotechnology and battery improvement. Nearly a decade ago, a group of researchers working at Stanford University were able to increase the number of cycles to roughly 40,000. Yet only incremental improvements had previously taken place since that discovery.
Five years after that 2007 breakthrough, the Stanford group made a slight adjustment that increased the surface area of the nanowires. In 2013, their counterparts at MIT achieved similar success, while others were able to build a lithium-ion battery created from silicon nanowires. In the latter case, the energy amount within was triple the standard amount, though it was only able to be sustained for 200 cycles.
The potential for even more nanotechnology-based products in the next few decades has made this segment of the business world one that could drastically change the world. Besides using it for technology, the value of using nanotechnology-based products in the field of medicine holds out the hope that diseases like cancer can either be eliminated or detected in time for proper treatment.
The microscopic size of nano-based items allows for the future creation of items like steel that can be strengthened by 10 times its previous capacity. Even more mind-boggling is the potential for that strengthened item to weigh much less than the current product.