UC Irvine May Have Just Invented The Everlasting Battery

Rechargeable batteries are great. They allow us to save money by being able to reuse the same set of batteries multiple times, and they're obviously better for the environment than one-use batteries. But like all awesome things, there's a downside—rechargeable batteries don't last forever. Researchers at UC Irvine have developed a rechargeable battery that bucks that trend, and while their nanowire-based battery doesn't last forever either, it comes close.

Instead of being able to be recharged just a few hundred times like a typical rechargeable battery, UC Irvine created a battery that can be re-juiced hundreds of thousands of times. It's a giant leap in battery charging capacity and it gets us ever closer to having batteries that truly live forever. In the meantime, commercial batteries based on the breakthrough technology could result in longer lifespands for laptops, smartphones, and even automobiles and spacecraft.

UC Irvine Battery

It's all thanks to nanowires, which are thousands of times thinner than human hair. They're also highly conductive and have large surface areas to store and transfer electrons. The problem that's perplexed scientists up until now is that nanowires are also extremely fragile and don't do all that great with discharging and recharging, which tends to make them brittle.

Researchers at UC Irvine found a solution. What they did is take a gold nanowire and coat it in a manganese dioxide shell, then wrapped it an electrolyte made of a gel with the consistency of Plexiglass.

Mya Le Thai, the study's leader, tested an electrode with gel-covered nanowires and found no loss of capacity or power from cycling it up to 200,000 times over three months. The nanowires all remained intact.

"Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it," said Penner, chair of UCI’s chemistry department. "She discovered that just by using this gel, she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity."

Penner added that in most cases, "these things typically die in dramatic fashion" lasting anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 cycles at the most. The working theory here is that the gel coating plasticizes the metal oxide in the battery and makes it flexible, which in turn prevents cracking.

Cool stuff, now let's hope they can commercialize this technology at a reasonable cost.
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