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Eureka! Researchers Accidentally Prolong Battery Life by 400 Percent

Apr 24, 2016 02:32 AM EDT
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Researchers from the University of California, Irvine have accidentally made a battery that can last up to 200,000 cycles of recharging and can last up to 400 times longer.

According to their study published in the journal ACS Energy Letters, the original idea of the research was to create a solid-state battery by substituting the common liquid in the lithium batteries with a much thicker electrolyte gel. They also replaced the lithium in the batteries with gold nanowires for electric storage.

The gold nanowires were coated with manganese oxide and protected with a layer of electrolyte gel. The electrolyte gel prevents corrosion by interacting with the metal oxide. Also, more charge can be held if the wire is longer, allowing more surface area.

The researchers then cycled charges in their solid-state battery and found out that their battery technology can last up to 200,000 recharges without showing any significant corrosion or decline. If this technology is applied to present consumer electronics, it can create a battery that can last 400 times longer than the common lithium batteries.

"[The gel] does more than just hold the wire together. It actually seems to make the metal oxide softer and more fracture-resistant. It increases the fracture toughness of this metal oxide that is doing the charge storage," said Reginald Penner, a lead author of the paper, to Popular Science.

However, it seems like the accidental discovery of prolonged battery life may be commercially unavailable for a long time. This is because the researchers have no idea what made their system work.

Another reason why it may took a long time before we can have these long-lasting batteries is that the researchers didn't really build a battery due to the absence of anodes, which allow electricity into the system. In the initial test system of their battery, the researchers used two cathodes, which output electricity, linked together instead of having both anode and cathode present in normal batteries. The gold nanowires are very expensive, making the manufacturing of this kind of battery costly.

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