Over the years, lithium-ion batteries have seen an improvement in their performance, but they still die after several hundred recharges. The researchers at University of California, Irvine, have invented a new nanowire-based battery material that could last forever and can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times.
In previous research work, scientists were able to develop nanowire batteries with the wires thousands of times thinner than the human hair and larger surface area for electron exchange and storage. However, those wires were brittle and their effective lifetime was even shorter than existing Lithium-ion batteries.
To overcome this problem, the researchers coated a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and encased it in a Plexiglas-like gel electrolyte.
The research leader UCI doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai tells that these encased wires were then cycled up to 200,000 times over three months and no loss of capacity, power, and strength was observed. However, when nanowires were used without the electrolyte gel, they got corroded after 4,000 cycles.
It was just an accident!
Apart from a fair amount of hard work, a little good luck was also involved in this invention.”Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it,” said Reginald Penner, chair of UCI’s chemistry department.
Mya discovered that just by using gel, she could increase its lifetime thousands of times.
At present, a minuscule amount of gold is being used in this nanowire battery, this still makes it a costly affair. We hope that with further research, a more common metal could be used to turn the dream of forever batteries into reality.