Researchers experiment with nanowires to improve battery efficiency

Although this news broke last week, it’s particularly interesting in light of yesterday’s discussion of the innovations IBM thinks will emerge in the next five years. A tenfold increase in battery life was on that list, and researchers have made a new discovery that could improve the longevity of lithium ion cells. Scientists from the Pacific Northwest and Sandia National Laboratories used an transmission electron microscope to look inside a custom-built lithium ion battery. They found that the thin wires of tin oxide that typically make up a battery’s electrode twist and deform as electrons flow through them. The wires became longer and fatter as they twisted, increasing in volume by about 250%. In addition to deforming, the internal structure of the wires changed from a crystalline form to a glassy material whose atoms were arranged more randomly.

The bulk tin oxide typically used to make electrode wires is described as a "brittle ceramic." Researchers believe that the deformation they observed can create small defects that will only accumulate over time. Those defects could affect the overall efficiency and longevity of a battery.

In an attempt to combat deformation, the researchers experimented with electrodes crafted from tin oxide nanowires. As materials scientist Chongmin Wang explains, the approach is like "making a rope from steel — you wind together thinner wires rather than making one thick rope." The custom-wound nanowires withstood deformation much better than the standard tin oxide wires, although it’s unclear whether the nanowires managed to maintain their crystalline form.

Either way, the researchers see this discovery as an important one on the road to creating better batteries. It might not improve the storage capacity of rechargeable cells, but it could allow them endure more charge/discharge cycles without any loss in performance. Thanks to Engadget for the tip.

Comments closed
    • GodsMadClown
    • 9 years ago

    You know, I yearn for the upgrade of the forums where we can mod down and/or killfile this juvenile first post baloney.

      • UberGerbil
      • 9 years ago

      I agree. Whatever cuteness it might’ve had died long, long ago. It used to be that the post count gave you some sense of whether there was an interesting discussion going on that made it worth the click-through, but no longer. I rarely bother anymore.

    • CasbahBoy
    • 9 years ago

    Cheap, expensive, traditional, or extremely experimental – I don’t care. Every little bit of knowlege counts, and with battery performance being one of the huge factors holding back mobile technology any improvements that make it to market are going to be welcomed.

    • geekl33tgamer
    • 9 years ago

    #1 post taken from sweatshopking!

    And i’m all for longer-life re-chargeable batteries. The ones in my DSLR never seam to last very long, so I’m always carrying 2 complete sets on a photo-shoot. That’s 8 little AA rechargeable batteries rolling round in the bag.

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      Man! you beat me!

      • bimmerlovere39
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve not had that issue, myself. I get 2000-3000 shots per EN-EL3e without flash on my D90. Throw the battery grip on, and you have twice that number… if I shoot 6000 times away from a wall, chances are I’m going to be in trouble with memory. (I get around 75 RAW files per Gigabyte.)

      Of course, the battery back can always accept the AA pack as backup (6 double A’s in a magazine/cartridge), though I’ve no clue how long that lasts.

      Needless to say, the second you break out the flash, battery life plummets. But that’s just the nature of flash bulbs.

      • anotherengineer
      • 9 years ago

      I have had really good results with the Sayno Eneloops that are made in Japan.

      I think the nicest thing is that if I leave my camera sit for 6 months it still has lots of power, the batteries on paper keep 85%? of their charge for a year if unused.

      Just have to watch for the sales.

        • sweatshopking
        • 9 years ago

        when the f are we going to play ?

          • anotherengineer
          • 9 years ago

          PLay what?

          I was pubbing in css last night.

          geesh

          Had the old AK totem pole going on office for a bit 😀

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            you friggin guy. message me when you’re going to play!

            • anotherengineer
            • 9 years ago

            lol ok

            Toronto WTF is the server I pub on 95% of the time!!

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