Lab accident leads to the discovery of a battery that can be used for hundreds of years

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI)
have discovered a way to design a battery so it doesn’t lose its charge after
years of use. The team found that by using a gold nanowire in electrolyte gel
rather than lithium, a battery could withstand 200,000 charging cycles and only
lose 5% of its capacity.

Mya_Le_Thai

Doctoral student Mya
Le Thai initially made the discovery after messing around in the lab. Image source: UCI.

After playing around in the university’s lab, it was doctoral
student Mya Le Thai who initially made the discovery, one which could lead to
rechargeable batteries that last up to 400 years. This means longer-lasting
laptops and smartphones, and fewer lithium-ion batteries accumulating in
landfills.

Originally, the researchers were experimenting with
nanowires for potential use in batteries, but found that over time, the
fragile, thin wires would break down and crack after multiple charging cycles. It
was on a whim that Thai coated a set of gold nanowires in manganese dioxide and
a Plexiglas-like electrolyte gel.

“She started to cycle these gel capacitors, and that’s when
we got the surprise,” said chair of the university’s chemistry department, Reginald
Penner. “She said, ‘this thing has been cycling 10,000 cycles and it’s still
going.’ She came back a few days later and said ‘it’s been cycling for 30,000
cycles.’ That kept going on for a month.”

Thai’s breakthrough is incredible, considering the average
laptop battery lasts 300 to 500 charging cycles. The nano-battery developed at
UCI survived 200,000 cycles in three months, meaning it could extend the life
of the average laptop battery by about 400 years.

Of course, the researchers realized the amount of gold
nanowire needed to create this battery would drive up prices, so they suggested
nickel could be a substitute for mass production.

Either way: not bad for messing around in a laboratory.

Source: UCI