A new way of building lithium-ion batteries discovered by researchers at Stanford may be able to increase mobile device battery life by an order of magnitude.
The capacity of a normal rechargeable battery is limited by the amount of lithium ions that can be held by the battery’s anode. In existing cells, the anode is made of carbon. Silicon is much more efficient for this purpose, but silicon-based batteries were considered a dead end because the silicon anodes would rapidly degrade under the extreme expansion and shrinking caused by soaking up positively charged lithium atoms while charging then releasing them during discharge.
However, Stanford researchers have developed a new process that may make silicon-based power cells both practical and more efficient. The technology involves using thousands of silicon nanowires one thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper. The nanowires swell up to four times their original size as they absorb lithium, but resist fracturing or degrading.
The leader of the research team describes the new method as "a revolutionary development," with the potential to increase existing lithium ion battery capacities by a factor of ten.
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While this research sounds promising, it’s important to remember that previous claims of revolutionary battery technology, such as silver-polymer and alkaline-polymer batteries, have failed to reach mainstream implementation.
Just because an advancement works in the lab is no guarantee that it will be practical and cost-effective to build in the outside world.