UC Irvine researchers "accidentally" make near-immortal battery

Some discoveries, like Penicillin, happen accidentally. There's even a word for it: serendipity. While careful, scientific procedures did surround most of those, the accidental discoveries sometimes overshadow the original goals of the experiment. Take for example the case of researchers from the University of California Irvine, who embarked on a quest to design a battery that didn't use unstable, flammable liquid. In the process, however, they "accidentally" created a battery that could be charged hundreds of thousands of types without a degradation in its charge.

Current batteries can only survive a limited number charge cycle, 7,000 to be exact. Don't worry, that's not the number of times you can charge a battery. A charge cycle consists of fully draining a battery and then charging it. 7,000 might look like a big number already in light of that, but the battery that UC Irvine accidentally created does exponentially better with 200,000 charge cycles.

The science behind this limitation of batteries lies in the materials used in current commercial batteries. Almost all batteries use some form of liquid, usually lithium, which makes batteries combustible and sensitive to extreme temperatures. The researchers sought to correct that flaw by creating a solid-state battery that used gold nanowires enveloped in electrolyte gel instead of liquid. They hoped to make a battery that would be less susceptible to combustion. Instead, they created a battery that was also less susceptible to degrading over time.

While the use of nanowires in batteries isn't new, and current smartphone lithium-ion batteries do indeed use them, the combination of gold nanowires and an electrolyte gel bath produced something more than the researchers were hoping for. In 200,000 charge cycles over three months, the battery didn't show signs of degrading. You might not charge your smartphone from empty to full that much, but other kinds of batteries might benefit from this serendipitous discovery.

Whether this discovery will benefit consumers soon is still an open question. The newly discovered combination will naturally still have to undergo more rigorous testing. If proven to be reliable, it will hopefully find its way to commercial batteries someday. It might not save you from having to recharge your smartphone everyday, but it could at least lessen the rate you'll have to replace those batteries in the long run.

VIA: Science Hook