MU researchers are looking at better battery life through magnetism

By Warren Miller, contributing writer

Battery
degradation is one of the consumer’s chief complaints about electronic devices,
but a new savior could be on the horizon. A research team from the University
of Missouri has applied for a patent for a material that could both extend the life of
batteries and reduce the heat that they emit
.

The magnetic
material itself has a lattice-like structure, similar to a honeycomb. By laying
a magnetic alloy over a latticed silicon surface, the new material conducts
electrical current in one direction, resulting in significantly less energy
dissipation than a standard silicon or germanium diode.

 

Image source: MU.

“A diode
normally conducts current and voltage through the device along only one biasing
direction,” said Deepak K. Singh, associate professor of physics and astronomy and principal
investigator of the Magnetism and Superconductivity Research Laboratory at UM.
“But when the voltage is reversed, the current stops. This switching process
costs significant energy due to dissipation or the depletion of the power
source, thus affecting battery life. By substituting the semiconductor with a
magnetic system, we believed we could create an energetically effective device
that consumes much less power with enhanced functionalities.”

This “magnetic
diode” could result in new transistors that dissipate far less energy than
their predecessors. These transistors could, in turn, result in batteries
capable of maintaining a full charge far longer than current commercially
available batteries for consumer electronic devices. Heat is also a byproduct
of energy dissipation, meaning the less energy dissipated, the less heat
discharged. “Although more work needs to be done to develop the end product,
the device could mean that a normal 5-hour charge could increase to more than a
500-hour charge,” said Singh.

The research
team is already in the process of preparing to take their new design to the
marketplace. According to Professor Singh, the new diode could also be used as
a de facto on/off switch for systems that operate by increasing or reducing the
flow of power through a device, such as closed-circuit cameras or radio
frequency attenuators.

In the end,
the commercial viability of this new magnetic diode will be all about batteries.
Almost everything that we consider essential in our everyday lives runs on batteries
these days, and extending battery life is the next frontier in differentiating
one smartphone/tablet/laptop from another. Who knows, maybe this technology
could lead to extending the life of batteries in electric vehicles.