A group of researchers from the University of California Irvine has accidentally invented a battery that has the ability to support 200,000 charge cycles. This discovery could bring us closer to batteries that can be charged thousands of times, without the need for any replacement.
The experiment was done during a test in a three-month period, producing a "94-96% average Coulombic efficiency," according to the researchers. The test recorded no loss of capacity or power and without fracturing any nanowires.
UCI doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai, who was also the leader of the research team, was the one who unintentionally developed the nanobattery after she coated a set of gold nanowires in manganese dioxide, then applied a 'Plexiglas-like,' electrolyte gel. The nanowires usually degrade after around 8,000 charge cycles, as their fragility causes them to crack during charge and discharge loads.
However, when they tested Thai's version, the battery was discovered to last even longer, and was found to be almost intact after many uses. The researchers suspect that the gel “plasticizes the metal oxide in the battery,” which provides even more longevity for the battery. A laptop battery is typically rated for only a few hundred charge/discharge cycles, but could last for at least 400 years if the UCI battery is used.
“Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it,” said Reginald 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, because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most," he said.
However, the UCI nanobattery is still in its development stage, and it will still be a long time before manufacturers could actually be able to apply this technology commercially. But once it is available, it could make a huge difference when it comes to providing power for computers, smartphones, and appliances in the market.
Back in August, an MIT spinoff company, SolidEnergy, developed a battery for phones that can provide twice the power of today's smartphone batteries. It will be coming to phones and wearables in 2017.