We all could use longer lasting batteries on our smartphones, and now researchers at Stanford have discovered a way to extend the life of lithium-ion batteries by using silicon to help them hold a charge. The problem with silicon, though, is that during charging it has a nasty habit of swelling and breaking. It also reacts to the electrolytes in the cells and ruins the circuitry.
Keeping silicon from swelling is the secret to longer lasting battery life
Still, silicon can play a very useful role when it comes to recharging batteries. The material stores as much as ten times the power as lithium iron batteries. So the question then is how to store the silicon in the cells without it swelling and mucking up the insides. Scientists at Stanford were inspired by the clusters of pomegranate seed. To prevent swelling, silicon nanowires are covered with carbon yolks that allow for swelling on the part of the silicon. The yolks are arranged like pomegranate shells so that the electricity can flow while keeping the silicon protected.
Let's just say that this experiment was fruitful for the Stanford eggheads. Stanford professor Yi Cui said that after 1000 cycles of charging and recharging, the "pomegranate-inspired anode operates at 97 percent capacity
"While a couple of challenges remain, this design brings us closer to using silicon anodes in smaller, lighter and more powerful batteries for products like cell phones, tablets and electric cars. Experiments showed our pomegranate-inspired anode operates at 97 percent capacity even after 1,000 cycles of charging and discharging, which puts it well within the desired range for commercial operation."-,Yi Cui, Professor, Stanford University
It might be some time before this method becomes viable for commercial use. If that does happen, we will see amazingly long battery life on smartphones, as much as ten times the length that we are seeing today.