Everything these days uses batteries of some kind or another, from the smartphone you use to text your friends to the tablets and electronic tools you use at work or school every day. In a surprising twist, researchers at UC Irvine may have discovered a way to increase the time a battery holds the charge by complete accident.
The discovery comes as the researchers were looking at creating a solid-state battery using an electrolyte gel, similar to the ones developed by Cockrell School of Engineering in Texas. The idea was to use the gel to replace the lithium inside a battery, a component that corrodes and creates the nasty smelling ooze you get on batteries you find at the back of your kitchen draws when you go looking for just one more battery.
Using gold nanowires to store the electricity within the battery, the new design lasted through 200,000 recharges without any significant decline in battery life or corrosion, something which they can’t explain. Reginald Penner, the lead author of the paper, stated that they “don’t understand the mechanism of that yet”.
Lasting more than 400 times longer than a traditional battery, Penner explained their experiment was like pouring water between two cups, the end results was the new batteries losing only 5% of their charge over 200,000 times.
While a great start to making effective batteries, introducing gold to any electrical component increases its cost and raises the question, could this new style of battery, combining a gel with thin wires of metal, use something other than gold to achieve similar results?