Innovations driving the development of extra long-life batteries
As technology continues to creep into our everyday lives, we are becoming more dependent on batteries to power our devices. It is no surprise, then, that science is looking to improve the lifespan of batteries - and they may be close to making a truly great technological leap as a result.
From smartphones to cars, batteries are found in almost every piece of technology that can be moved around. This has shaped how we interact with the world around us, but there is a drawback in that all of the energy being used to power these devices will deplete over time.
Although we have partially solved this issue with rechargeable batteries, usually made with lithium-ion, their lifespan is limited and charge quality worsens with every charge.
Innovation is driving a new way to charge batteries
With the above problem in mind, scientists have been making incredible strides in advancing battery technology to improve its longevity.
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, have implemented a nanowire-based technology that allows batteries to regain a charge hundreds of thousands of times over.
The current lithium-ion battery framework can hold around 5,000 full cycles before it cannot hold a reasonable charge. The scientists at the University of California, Irvine have managed to implement battery designs that can last over 200,000 cycles without a noticeable drop in capacity.
The incredible work brought forward by these scientists incorporated nanowire technology into batteries to achieve extended lifespans. These tiny wires are magnitudes of size smaller than a single human hair, and offer an incredible evolution in battery technology.
The main issue with lithium-ion batteries is their weakness in being recharged regularly. By their design, current nanowires can lose charge due to corrosion, ageing and expansion, all of which lowers the overall charge capacity of the battery.
Nanowires are incredibly conductive though, and due to their thin design can offer a massive surface area for storage and electron-swapping. The researchers addressed this problem in nanowires by using a gold-coated nanowire housed in a manganese dioxide shell. This was then covered in a Plexiglass-like electrolyte, which offered incredible durability.
It took three months for researchers to cycle the new battery over 200,000 times. There was no degradation or loss of capacity, and the nanowires were still in excellent condition. In short, their efforts were a monumental success.
The only downside noted by the team of researchers was that gold is a precious metal, which would cause the price of these batteries to outdo their overall worth in the market. To combat this, they suggested an alternative, less expensive housing that would work similarly - nickel.
A new path forward in long-life battery development
Battery development is on the cutting edge of innovation at the moment, with corporate giants such as Tesla and Dyson forging a path forward in terms of long-lasting batteries. With Tesla spending a lot of money innovating batteries for their electric vehicles, it is only a matter of time before even greater strides are made in battery development. Other novel ideas, such as solid-state batteries are already making their way to market, so the future is very hopeful for batteries.
There have been other incredible leaps in battery technology in recent times, too. Scientists at the University of East Anglia have been working on bio batteries that use bacteria to create clean energy. Using proteins found on the bacteria surface, an electrical current was created by touching the bacteria to a mineral surface.
Popular watchmaker Swatch has even started their own line of research and development into batteries. With the rise of wearable tech such as smartwatches, Swatch is looking to implement a bio-organic battery to these devices that will offer charges of up to six months.
It is clear that batteries are going to be here to stay, but what is less clear is how they will function in the next decade or so. In terms of new technology, batteries are in a very unique position with numerous big names and researchers looking to break through and create a battery with a very, very long lifespan.