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Published on May 20th, 2014 | by James Ayre


Silly Putty Batteries That Last 3 Times Longer Than Conventional Ones

May 20th, 2014 by  

Lithium-ion batteries that last 3 times longer between charges than is the current industry standard are now a reality thanks to new research from the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering.

The new way of making lithium-ion batteries — which, humorously, utilizes surgical tubing and one of the key constituents of Silly Putty to great effect — has significant implications for the electronics, battery, and EV industries, according to the researchers.

Silicon polymer and battery used for the research. Image Credit: University of California - Riverside

To explain the work simply — the researchers created silicon dioxide (SiO2) nanotube anodes for lithium-ion batteries, and, after testing, found that the new anodes had more than 3 times the energy storage capacity as the carbon-based anodes currently in wide-scale use.

“We are taking the same material used in kids’ toys and medical devices and even fast food and using it to create next generation battery materials,” explained Zachary Favors, the lead author of the new paper detailing the research. Regarding fast food, he’s referencing this, LOL.

University of California — Riverside provides more:

The team originally focused on silicon dioxide because it is an extremely abundant compound, environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and found in many other products. Silicon dioxide has previously been used as an anode material in lithium ion batteries, but the ability to synthesize the material into highly uniform exotic nanostructures with high energy density and long cycle life has been limited.

There key finding was that the silicon dioxide nanotubes are extremely stable in batteries, which is important because it means a longer lifespan. Specifically, SiO2 nanotube anodes were cycled 100 times without any loss in energy storage capability and the authors are highly confident that they could be cycled hundreds more times.

The researchers are currently working to develop methods to allow for the scaling up of the SiO2 nanotube production process — with the aim of course of commercializing the process.

The new research has been detailed in a paper just published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. The research was supported by Temiz Energy Technologies.

While on the subject of batteries, with the Gigafactory coming closer and closer to being a reality, the possibility of a car that lasts a lifetime has been a topic that’s been discussed a bit. Every time your battery gets worn down enough that it can no longer hold a charge, the idea is that you can simply replace it but keep the rest of the car.

Of course, with improvements to battery technology, like the one detailed above, such replacements could become less necessary — with times between replacements becoming longer and longer perhaps. Though, such improvements would also allow for the replacement of the battery that you got with your car with a newer one that has greater capacity and thus provides more range. Interesting thoughts. 

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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