A Researcher Accidentally Discovered a Way to Make a Nanowire-Based Battery That Could Last a Lifetime

By: | May 3rd, 2016

A nanowire compared to a human hair. Thai et al./UC Irvine via YouTube

Battery life diminishes gradually and one day it dies completely beyond charging.

Now, in a big breakthrough, researchers from the University of California, have invented nanowire-based battery material that can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times. In other words, these batteries would never require a replacement.

Engineers have been working for a long time to incorporate nanowire technology into battery systems. Nanowires are highly conductive and thousands of times thinner than a human hair, so they can be easily arranged to provide a large surface area for electron transfer. This makes them ideal for electric storage and transmission. The only drawback with these nanowires is that they are usually very fragile and don’t do well after repeated charging and discharging.

But now, researchers have created electrode nanowires using a thin core of gold, surrounded by layers of manganese dioxide and a Plexiglass-like electrolyte gel. Researchers found this combination keeps all the properties of the nanowires intact, making them resistant to fractures.

Study leader and UCI doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai has charged and discharged this nanowire-based battery up to 200,000 times in three months, and batteries didn’t show any loss in power capacity.

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

“That was crazy,” he added, “because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most.”

Mya Le Thai went on to say that “The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option. This research proves that a nanowire-based battery electrode can have a long lifetime and that we can make these kinds of batteries a reality.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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