Accidentally created new battery technology can last 400 times longer

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new battery technology
Credit: Steve Zylius / UC Irvine

Researchers in the US have created a battery capable of being recharged hundreds of thousands of times without showing signs of wear, spelling a potential end to electronics rendered useless by dead cells.

The batteries of today are mainly lithium, and over time that lithium corrodes inside the battery.
Instead of lithium, researchers at UC Irvine have used gold nanowires to store electricity, and have found that their system is able to far outlast traditional lithium battery construction. The Irvine team’s system cycled through 200,000 recharges without significant corrosion or decline.

The original aim of the experiment was simply to make a solid-state battery that used an electrolyte gel rather than a liquid to hold its charge – lithium batteries contain liquid, which makes them extremely combustible and also sensitive to temperature.

But when they started experimenting with gold nanowires suspended in this electrolyte gel, they found that the system was incredibly resilient. In fact, it was way, way more resilient than any other battery system.

Watch: How batteries work

The use of nanowires, which are thousands of times thinner than human hair, highly conductive and have a large surface area, in batteries is not new.

Lithium-ion batteries, used in most smartphones, are also made up of nanowires, but they are fragile and prone to breaking after repeated charges.

As such, batteries are currently designed to withstand a certain number of “cycles” – the equivalent of a battery fully draining.

By coating the nanowires in both a shell and the gel, the US researchers managed to prevent the nanowires from growing brittle.

During testing, it withstood 200,000 charges over three months. In that time the researchers failed to notice any decline in charge capacity or damage within the battery. Regular batteries currently on the market normally die after 7,000 charges at most, the study claimed.

The study was published in the American Chemical Society’s Energy Letters on April 20.

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