Battery that lasts 400-times longer discovered accidentally

22 Apr 2016

Researchers working on battery technology have accidentally figured out a method of storing energy 400-times longer than ever before.

The battery that the researchers from UC Irvine in the US have been working on is a lot different from the one found in many of our devices based on the lithium-ion concept, which, one could argue, is coming towards the end of its lifecycle in terms of how efficient we can make them.

Lithium-based batteries are also a growing issue for manufacturers as not only do they degrade in their ability to sustain energy after a number of charging cycles, but the lithium within them is highly corrosive when it comes into contact with oxygen, both in the air and water.

Now, according to the UC Irvine team, it has discovered that, by using gold nanowire, this new battery is able to go through approximately 200,000 recharges without any signs of a degrading of the battery.

Interestingly, however, the team admits that it’s still not really sure how it managed to achieve this as it was originally trying to develop a solid-state battery using electrolyte gel, rather than one needing liquid batteries, such as lithium.

New metal needed to replace gold

Explaining the technology behind the gold nanowire battery further, the team said that the wire, at a size comparable with microbes, is coated in manganese oxide and then covered again in the electrolyte gel.

The amount of charge one of these nanowires can hold depends on the length of wire provided, but the application of electrolyte gel in this experiment has greatly improved upon previous nanowire energy storage experiments.

Speaking of the accidental discovery, lead author of the study, Reginald Penner, said: “We started to cycle the devices, and then realised that they weren’t going to die. We don’t understand the mechanism of that yet.”

Aside from figuring out exactly how this process works, the team will now be investigating whether other metals could be used instead of gold, as trying to manufacture gold nanowire on an industrial scale would be prohibitively expensive.

Battery image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic