You get home from work, crack open a cold beer, and sit down to play some video games, only to find that your controller is completely dead. We all have had it happen at some point. Regardles of the specific scenario, if you were to claim that you’ve never experienced the dreaded dead-battery problem, you’d be lying.
This problem is about to become a whole lot less common, however. There’s a new technology in town, and it could be a complete game-changer in the battery market.
University of California Irvine (UCI) has been researching and developing new battery technologies for years, and recently, they have announced that they have potentially discovered a groundbreaking new technology that will allow batteries to store more energy and work across longer periods of time. And ironically enough, this discovery comes as a complete surprise. The researchers have discovered it by complete accident.
This new technology was discovered by UCI grad-student Mya Le Thai. Mya was searching for a substitute for the alkaline solution in current-day batteries. Her idea was to develop an electrolyte gel in order to cut costs on battery production. But in a eureka moment that can only be described as a miracle, her electrolyte gel substitute turned out to not only be a viable solution, but actually a better, more efficient solution that expands battery life substantially.
Previously, the only signigicant battery technology advancements involved complex nanowire filaments that were microscopic in scale. These filaments were made up of wires that held energy and ultimately increased battery capacity. For years, researchers have been trying to make this nanowire technology a viable substitute for the consumer market, as these filaments are a huge leap in terms of battery capacity, energy retention, and power output. The solution is viable, but isn’t exactly a popular one.
Nanowires are a great alternative to lithium batteries, but the market seems to be sticking to the lithium solution. Why? Well, as it turns out, the nanowire technology isn’t exactly the most reliable. The microscopic wires inside the battery begin to break down as the batteries are recharged. Lithium batteries are still a worthwhile investment because they are seen as more reliable and time tested.
Mya’s electrolyte gel, however, doesn’t have this problem. In fact, it is better at keeping a charge than current batteries offer. Take, for instance, a standard lithium battery. A single unit can withstand somewhere between five and seven thousand recharges before it completely dies, although storage capacity will dwindle over time. When researchers combined the imprefect nanowire technology with the brand new electrolyte gel solution, the amount of possible recharge cycles increased to a staggering 200,000 recharge cycles per battery lifetime, and after a three month testing period, the battery didn’t lose any capacity whatsoever.
This is a complete game changer, and in the coming months we will likely see it introduced into daily public life. We have lots of technologies that depend on batteries for power: mobile phones, cameras, laptops… Just about anything that uses power but doesn’t require a direct line to a power source. When this technology hits the market, we can expect to see these devices lasting for much longer periods of time.
Of course, we aren’t really doing this new discovery justice. There are obviously many other details about the technology available to the public – its just that we don’t have the background to comprehend what exactly they’re talking about. You can rest assured, however, that over the coming years we will begin to notice a huge leap in battery performance.
We probably won’t see this technology on the market for a year or two though. Scientists still need to do additional testing, as well as find a solution for mass production of the technology.
When reached out to for comment, researcher Mya Le Thai responded, “For this research right now the plan is to understand the mechanisms of how this gel electrolyte could prolong the cyclibility so well. The future bigger plan would be to optimize these gel electrolytes to see if it can improve even more.” While it is a sound plan indeed, we can only hope that the additional testing and optimization doesn’t take too long. I, for one, would love a cell phone thats battery lasts more than one day.
For readers who are more technically inclined, the discovery report is available on the internet. Titled “100k Cycles and Beyond: Extraordinary Cycle Stability for MnO2 Nanowires Impacted by a Gel Electrolyte”, the report has a lot more detail than what we have covered here.