Researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), have designed a battery that does not lose its charge after years of use.
Great minds change times, and each era has a few of them. Every single day, scientists use their time to experiment and explore, to make discoveries that could ease our everyday life and contribute to a better society.
A brilliant and curious mind can do wonders when in the lab. One girl, a doctoral candidate, accidentally created something that has the potential to change the way electronics evolve.
Back in 2016, a UC Irvine student Mya Le Thai made an accidental discovery while in the lab, which has the potential to change the way we charge batteries for good.
It was reported that she was just experimenting, and thought of coating gold nanowires in manganese dioxide. She applied an electrolyte gel that served as a “Plexiglas-like” protection for the wires.
Reginald Penner, chair of the university’s chemistry department, explained:
“She started to cycle these gel capacitors, and that’s when we got the surprise. She said, ‘this thing has been cycling 10,000 cycles and it’s still going.’ She came back a few days later and said ‘it’s been cycling for 30,000 cycles.’ That kept going on for a month.”
This combination, instead of lithium, made the battery able to withstand 200,000 charging cycles and only lose 5% of its capacity!
Nanowires are microscopic but very conductive fibers, that function well for relaying an electric charge. Yet, they are very fragile due to their small size.
They can normally withstand a maximum of 8,000 charges. For instance, a normal laptop battery with regular nanowires has around 300-500 charges in it before it dies. With this new configuration, researchers project that the laptop using the special nano battery would last up to 400 years.
However, the team realized the amount of gold nanowire needed to create this battery would drive up prices, so in the case of mass production, they suggested the use of nickel.
The implications of this discovery are immense, including longer-lasting laptops and smartphones, and dramatically reduced lithium-ion batteries waste in landfills.
Can you imagine batteries that never die and never fail?
Just think of all the possible technological advancements!
The team of researchers went on to test the hypothesis and experiment with different materials.
“The big picture is that there may be a very simple way to stabilize nanowires of the type that we studied. If this turns out to be generally true, it would be a great advance for the community.
If you could get 100,000 cycles out of a lithium-ion battery it might mean you never need to buy two of them. We’re talking about a lifetime of 20 years, maybe even longer than that.”