Chemists create battery technology with off-the-charts charging capacity

April 20, 2016
UCI chemist Reginald Penner (shown) and doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai have developed a nanowire-based technology that allows lithium-ion batteries to be recharged hundreds of thousands of times. Credit: Daniel A. Anderson / UCI

University of California, Irvine researchers have invented nanowire-based battery material that can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times, moving us closer to a battery that would never require replacement. The breakthrough work could lead to commercial batteries with greatly lengthened lifespans for computers, smartphones, appliances, cars and spacecraft.

Scientists have long sought to use nanowires in batteries. Thousands of times thinner than a human hair, they're highly conductive and feature a for the storage and transfer of electrons. However, these filaments are extremely fragile and don't hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging, or cycling. In a typical , they expand and grow brittle, which leads to cracking.

UCI researchers have solved this problem by coating a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and encasing the assembly in an electrolyte made of a Plexiglas-like gel. The combination is reliable and resistant to failure.

The study leader, UCI doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai, cycled the testing electrode up to 200,000 times over three months without detecting any loss of capacity or power and without fracturing any nanowires. The findings were published today in the American Chemical Society's Energy Letters.

Hard work combined with serendipity paid off in this case, according to senior author Reginald Penner.

"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."

"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."

The researchers think the goo plasticizes the metal oxide in the battery and gives it flexibility, preventing cracking.

"The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option," Thai said. "This research proves that a nanowire-based electrode can have a long lifetime and that we can make these kinds of batteries a reality."

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14 comments

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betterexists
1 / 5 (10) Apr 20, 2016
Best way to charge batteries is to slide them from 1 side of a Volcano to the other side in a slant/slope fashion!
If they begin to heat up during transit, just move the wire up again in a slant/slope fashion.
Exchange for the charged ones in coin machines. Get 10 charged batteries per week (or for what else are those home delivery/street delivery drones?)
Tektrix
4.7 / 5 (18) Apr 20, 2016
Best way to charge batteries is to slide them from 1 side of a Volcano to the other side in a slant/slope fashion!


Whoa, I know it's 4/20 but damn, how many bong hits have you had?
tekram
5 / 5 (9) Apr 20, 2016
http://pubs.acs.o....6b00029

we report that the cycle stability of MnO2 all-nanowire
capacitors can be extended from 2000 to 8000 cycles to more
than 100 000 cycles, simply by replacing a liquid electrolyte
with a poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) gel electrolyte.
ab3a
4.4 / 5 (8) Apr 20, 2016
Great. So it can cycle many times. What's the capacity of the cell? What's the capacity per unit mass or volume? What is the storage/discharge efficiency?

So many questions...
DonGateley
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 20, 2016
Fluff article. phys.org is becoming information free.
Shakescene21
4 / 5 (4) Apr 20, 2016
WOW!! If the life of a battery can be extended dramatically, then the life-cycle cost will be reduced dramatically. I hope Physorg will keep us updated on this technology.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (7) Apr 21, 2016
Great. So it can cycle many times. What's the capacity of the cell? What's the capacity per unit mass or volume?

One thing at a time. They were looking at the recharge/discharge problem exclusively. That's just how you do science: you narrow your focus to address one problem at a time.

Next step will be how to see how this plays out if it's made into a real batter ycell. Next step will be to see if material costs can be reduced (gold doesn't exactly come cheap).

This is an important breakthrough, no doubt, but it's not going to jump the bridge to local store shelves tomorrow (or next year).
Mike_Massen
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 21, 2016
Tekram with paper
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acsenergylett.6b00029
we report that the cycle stability of MnO2 all-nanowire
capacitors...
At this stage starts as a capacitor ie super-cap format & sodium sulphate as electrolyte just like those you find on youtube which already have 5000's useful cycles & much cheaper too just using rudimentary electrodes of cheap graphite etc.

When this is a battery & high depth capacity such as intercalation then can advance seriously industrially, til then its a variant of contemporary super caps & at lower volts :-(

Commend the development but, journo's "spin" isnt up to scratch as a battery & so a tad misleading. Quantifies up to ~800F/g but, is it expensive re energy density for stationary application (?) its not clear what it scales up to in comparison especially self-discharge with cheap graphene competition but, its a cheap way to R&D test electrode materials in a super-cap format ie faster testing :-)
SamB
3 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2016
So, in 10 years will anyone know the status of this product or will it go down the rabbit hole with the other hundreds of earth-shaking discoveries showcased here?
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2016
So, in 10 years will anyone know the status of this product or will it go down the rabbit hole with the other hundreds of earth-shaking discoveries showcased here?


Stay tuned... There's a lot of research, development, and investment ahead. Along the way some obstacle might be unsurmountable. But the potential benefits to humanity and the environment are enormous. This is leading-edge research and we don't know where it will end.
Urgelt
3.7 / 5 (7) Apr 25, 2016
Sam asked, "So, in 10 years will anyone know the status of this product or will it go down the rabbit hole with the other hundreds of earth-shaking discoveries showcased here?"

It's basic research.

There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of promising avenues to explore when it comes to battery tech.

Here we have learned that a particular gel electrolyte prevents the breakdown of gold nanowires used to store electrons. Next they'll want to examine different gels and nanowires to see if it works with other materials, and perhaps construct some prototype batteries so they can evaluate their properties and try some tweaks.

It's a safe bet that any particular discovery won't be commercialized. It's also a safe bet that some of them will. Better batteries are coming.
TogetherinParis
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2016
Real science is not necessarily microscopic, except for feeble minded imbeciles. Progress certainly is not necessarily narrow, either. Leonardo da Vinci did "real science" and elucidated many things because he just noticed them and chain thought them out. He made mistakes, grievous ones, but no worse than the silly fool who came up with the idea of "personality" or "ego" or "self concept"--deception by description.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Apr 26, 2016
Stay tuned... There's a lot of research, development, and investment ahead. Along the way some obstacle might be unsurmountable. But the potential benefits to humanity and the environment are enormous. This is leading-edge research and we don't know where it will end.

Not to forget - the pocketbook potential for the successful researchers...:-)....
Eikka
not rated yet May 27, 2016
Quantifies up to ~800F/g but, is it expensive re energy density for stationary application (?) its not clear what it scales up to


The actual full cell capacity from the paper is 12-56 F/g over a charge window of 0.8 volts, which corresponds to 1-5 Watt-hours per kilogram. (page 4. table 1.)

It's has about 1-2% the capacity of lithium batteries.

With that sort of capacity, the ESOEI must be less than 1:1 meaning it takes more energy to make the capacitors than they will ever store - or to answer the question: yes, they're very very expensive.

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