Extraordinary Nanowire Battery Can Be Charged Over 200,000 Times

Interesting Engineering

nanobattery[Image Source: University of California, Irvine]

The absence of ultra reliable, compact batteries in our modern world is a problem, a big problem. Even though some advances have been made with lithium ion batteries, they don't last a terribly long time. If we are to enter the next era of sustainable energy, we are going to need better batteries.

Nanotechnology may hold some of the keys to the future of battery development. For a long time, scientists have wanted to use nanowires in batteries because they’re highly conductive and possess a large surface area for the storage and transfer of electrons. However, these filaments don’t hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging due to their fragile constitution. In a typical lithium-ion battery, they expand and grow brittle, which leads to cracking. Up until now, scientists hadn't figured out a way to make the filaments strong.

nanobatt[Image Source: University of California, Irvine]

A team of chemists led by Mya Le Thai at the University of California Irvine have just created new nanowire batteries that can be charged over 200,000 times without degradation. Contrast this to modern lithium ion batteries that start to give up after a few thousand cycles. As of now, this newly discovered battery is entirely lab-based and is in the beginning stages of development.

“Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it,” said Penner, chair of UCI’s chemistry department. “She discovered that just by using this gel, she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity.” -UCI News

These nanowire batteries are comprised of a thin gold core surrounded by layers of manganese dioxide and a Plexiglass-like electrolyte gel. Each wire is thousands of times thinner than a human hair. After three months of testing, the research team found that they were able to charge and discharge a simple cell made from the wires over 200,000 times without any loss in capacity. The researchers think the goo plasticizes the metal oxide in the battery and gives it flexibility which prevents it from cracking.

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“The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option,” Thai said. “This research proves that a nanowire-based battery electrode can have a long lifetime and that we can make these kinds of batteries a reality.” -UCI News

Here's Mya Le Thai explaining the specifics of the electrode nanowire battery:

This ground-breaking new research could lead to battery improvements for computers, smartphones, appliances, cars and spacecraft. The days of enduring the annoying little beeps from dying smoke alarms could become a thing of the past. The abstract on nanowire batteries was published in ACS Energy Letters.

Leah Stephens is a writer, artist, YouTuber, and entrepreneur.

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