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New Nanostructure Technology Can Mean Longer Battery Life

By - Source: Phys | B 25 comments

Stanford researchers may have found the solution to making lithium-ion batteries last longer

Lithium-ion battery technology has made it so that portable devices can be used for a good portion of a day before needing more juice. Even then, I find myself wanting more. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled by my iPad’s amazing battery life, but I wish that both my smartphone and my laptop could hold at least half a day’s worth of charge without me having to shut off absolutely every useful function on either electronic.

It looks like my hopes and dreams for my electronics might be fulfilled in the near future.

A team of Stanford researchers have found the solution to make lithium-ion batteries hold ten times the charge they currently can. How? By replacing the battery’s anode, usually constructed out of graphite, with silicon. It sounds like a simple fix, but scientists haven't been able to do so until now because the silicon would be quickly destroyed in a process called decrepitation. Even though silicon atoms would allow more lithium ions to bind than carbon atoms, therefore allowing the battery to store more charge, the silicon would expand and retract as ions flowed through the battery. These expansions and retractions caused cracks in the silicon. Another problem is that the lithium ions would sometimes react with the silicon, removing the battery’s ability to charge.

The Stanford team has developed a technique to strengthen the silicon anodes by making them out of nanowires and hollow nanoparticles. The anode is also coated with an outer layer of silicon oxide, a ceramic material that prevents the silicon from expanding.

For now, these batteries are able to operate for more than 6,000 cycles, well beyond current lithium-ion battery cycle life standards.

The team’s given no timetable for when this technology will be commercialized. For now, they’re working on simplifying the process of creating the new silicon anodes and creating better cathodes to match the new silicon anodes on lithium-ion batteries. I can only hope that such technology will trickle down to the consumer level soon.

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  • 15 Hide
    downsb , May 31, 2012 6:08 PM
    As amazing as this is, I wonder about more than just consumer electronics...what about automotive applications? Could this be the holy grail that allows EVs to surpass traditional gasoline cars in terms of demand? If I could drive back and forth to work for a week on a single charge as compared to a single tank of gas I'd be more than happy to jump on that wagon!
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    leo2kp , May 31, 2012 5:58 PM
    About time!
  • 15 Hide
    downsb , May 31, 2012 6:08 PM
    As amazing as this is, I wonder about more than just consumer electronics...what about automotive applications? Could this be the holy grail that allows EVs to surpass traditional gasoline cars in terms of demand? If I could drive back and forth to work for a week on a single charge as compared to a single tank of gas I'd be more than happy to jump on that wagon!
  • Display all 25 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Chainzsaw , May 31, 2012 6:13 PM
    Can't wait for the day when you can have a desktop replacement laptop that runs purely on solar power as well as indoor lightning. Of course have a small battery with it as well.
  • -2 Hide
    segio526 , May 31, 2012 6:39 PM
    downsbAs amazing as this is, I wonder about more than just consumer electronics...what about automotive applications? Could this be the holy grail that allows EVs to surpass traditional gasoline cars in terms of demand? If I could drive back and forth to work for a week on a single charge as compared to a single tank of gas I'd be more than happy to jump on that wagon!

    Everything staying the same, these batteries would also take 10x more time to charge. If they can charge and discharge faster than current batteries, we'll be seeing these things in more applications. For example, they could displace lead acid batteries in cars and UPSes if they can discharge faster.
  • 2 Hide
    BulkZerker , May 31, 2012 7:00 PM
    ChainzsawCan't wait for the day when you can have a desktop replacement laptop that runs purely on solar power as well as indoor lightning. Of course have a small battery with it as well.


    What your wanting has more to do with solar cell efficiency, not battery capacity. A netbook needs around 30 watts to run, so unless you have as solar cell producing at least 28 watts the battery is going to need a substantial battery to keep the device running.
  • -1 Hide
    azgard , May 31, 2012 7:19 PM
    segio526Everything staying the same, these batteries would also take 10x more time to charge. If they can charge and discharge faster than current batteries, we'll be seeing these things in more applications. For example, they could displace lead acid batteries in cars and UPSes if they can discharge faster.


    That we would have to see, lead acid batteries have been around so long because they are extremely durable, relatively cheap, and easily recycled(almost a 100% rate), not that I wouldn't like to see it, but outside of limited cases where cost is irrelevant and performance is important it will be hard to replace them.
  • -1 Hide
    aragis , May 31, 2012 7:20 PM
    No numbers. It may be just a minor enchancement that will gain us another half-hour :p 
  • 7 Hide
    digitalgriffin , May 31, 2012 7:24 PM
    Welcome to six years ago. Berkely had made similar announcements about the potential of silicon in batteries. However they have made no real advancements towards production. This is just another paper of little advancement trying to spur another round of funding.
  • -6 Hide
    digitalgriffin , May 31, 2012 7:28 PM
    ChainzsawCan't wait for the day when you can have a desktop replacement laptop that runs purely on solar power as well as indoor lightning. Of course have a small battery with it as well.


    LMAO. That day will be never. Assuming your light source was 100% efficient (no energy wasted as heat. It all went to light) and your collection source could collect ALL that light (absolutely impossible), you would at best collect about 13 Watts. It takes 13 Watts to run an Atom processor alone.

  • 7 Hide
    A Bad Day , May 31, 2012 7:29 PM
    Brb, patenting this new battery type and then suing every company that pushes such batteries into the consumer market.
  • 1 Hide
    Parsian , May 31, 2012 7:44 PM
    we have been hearing about this since 08/09... But non of this ever seem to come to consumer market especially when there is so much demand for it.
  • 4 Hide
    blazorthon , May 31, 2012 8:05 PM
    segio526Everything staying the same, these batteries would also take 10x more time to charge. If they can charge and discharge faster than current batteries, we'll be seeing these things in more applications. For example, they could displace lead acid batteries in cars and UPSes if they can discharge faster.


    Or, you could put ten small batteries based on this technology into a single one of the same size as current batteries. Each small one could theoretically charge as fast as the older battery and if you charge all ten independently, then you can now charge and discharge ten times faster than before. It's more complicated and that might leave more room for failure, but it's something worth looking into, at least I think that it is.

    downsbAs amazing as this is, I wonder about more than just consumer electronics...what about automotive applications? Could this be the holy grail that allows EVs to surpass traditional gasoline cars in terms of demand? If I could drive back and forth to work for a week on a single charge as compared to a single tank of gas I'd be more than happy to jump on that wagon!


    A Tesla electric car can go up to 600 miles per charge. Electric cars don't have a problem with capacity (at least, Tesla cars don't, pretty much any other purely electric car is using ancient battery tech that is from the 70s and can't come close), they have a problem with charging time and cost. What I mentioned above might help the charging time problem (unless they already do something like that), but how do we reduce cost? Then we have to realize that we aren't really saving the planet by using electric cars when we consider where the electricity came from.

    I don't know for sure about other countries, but the majority of the USA's power generation is from fossil fuels and nuclear fission plants. Switching the fuel from one fossil fuel being used in the car to another being used in a power plant (or Uranium) doesn't seem like much of an improvement, if even an improvement at all.

    If we used modern nuclear fission technology, such as those newer thorium power plants instead of our old uranium power plants, then I think that we would be doing some good, at least from what I've read about them. There's also the option of using hydrogen instead of any other fuel too. Hydrogen is pretty much everywhere, burns well, burns clean (burning hydrogen gets you water vapor instead of pollutants), and hydrogen is very light.
  • 1 Hide
    bak0n , May 31, 2012 8:57 PM
    I read about this about 2 years ago on some green blog. I'll believe it when I see it.
  • -1 Hide
    jdwii , May 31, 2012 9:37 PM
    I stop reading after this
    Quote:
    Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled by my iPad’s amazing battery life

  • 0 Hide
    Zingam_Duo , May 31, 2012 9:47 PM
    As usual the promising technology will be commercialized after 10-15 years and will have upto 2-3x more capacity than the promised theoretical 10x.
  • 0 Hide
    Zingam_Duo , May 31, 2012 9:51 PM
    BulkZerkerWhat your wanting has more to do with solar cell efficiency, not battery capacity. A netbook needs around 30 watts to run, so unless you have as solar cell producing at least 28 watts the battery is going to need a substantial battery to keep the device running.


    And with future LED lighting, that won't ever work. :D 
  • 2 Hide
    blazorthon , May 31, 2012 9:52 PM
    jdwiiI stop reading after this


    Most of us probably don't like iPads, but they do have good battery life.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , May 31, 2012 9:54 PM
    zingam_duoAnd with future LED lighting, that won't ever work.


    Maybe, maybe not. LEDs often use much less power than other light emitting devices, but they do emit a lot of light for their power usage.
  • 1 Hide
    beayn , May 31, 2012 11:13 PM
    zingam_duoAs usual the promising technology will be commercialized after 10-15 years and will have upto 2-3x more capacity than the promised theoretical 10x.

    This. Because they will want to milk consumers and give better battery life in the next model of laptop or phone etc, thus giving everyone a "reason" to upgrade every 2 years.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , May 31, 2012 11:36 PM
    digitalgriffinWelcome to six years ago. Berkely had made similar announcements about the potential of silicon in batteries. However they have made no real advancements towards production. This is just another paper of little advancement trying to spur another round of funding.


    Maybe, but this seems to be telling us that actual advancement has been made in the field; it's probably not just begging for more funding.
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