The lead researcher at UC-Irvine who coated a gold nanowire with a manganese dioxide shell reportedly was able to cycle a testing electrode about 200,000 times in 3 months without observing a loss of power.
“Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it. 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,” explained the chair of UCI’s chemistry department. Coating the fragile, tiny nanowires also help make them stronger, so they don’t break as easily. The study paper is here if you would like to read it.
Creating a material with a dramatically longer lifespan obviously would be a great boon for devices that use batteries, like laptops, smartphones, electric vehicles, and so forth. For electric vehicles, obviously, battery life has been an obstacle for greater adoption, but if it was possible for a battery to last thousands, tens of thousands of even 100,000 cycles longer, this kind of breakthrough could change the world in a number of ways.
The study lead is Mya Le Thai. She stated: “The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option. This research proves that a nanowire-based battery electrode can have a long lifetime and that we can make these kinds of batteries a reality.” She is a doctoral student in chemistry at UC-Irvine.
Lab breakthroughs don’t always translate into commercially viable products, so it isn’t that clear at the moment what the next steps might be. Some universities work with their students via technology transfer staff who help them with things like patents, licensing, or even potential investors.