Researchers at the University of Stanford have been working on a new type of battery, which could power everything from your phone to your car, and have made a breakthrough regarding the use of lithium as the cell’s anode. A lithium anode could potentially increase the operating time of the battery, but sadly, lithium reacts with electrolytes used inside batteries, and can overheat or even explode.
This is the problem the scientists have overcome. By wrapping the lithium in a special protective layer – rather awesomely referred to as a “carbon nanosphere wall” – it keeps the potentially unstable mixture from getting together and causing all sorts of chaos. This has increased the efficiency of a lithium anode battery to 99 percent, according to the team, up from 96 percent before, and a step closer to becoming commercially viable.
A pure lithium anode battery, like the one developed at Stanford, has apparently been seen as a “Holy Grail” among researchers for sometime. Engineering leader Yi Cui says the lightweight material has the “greatest potential” of all the materials that can be used as anodes, and that it provides more power per volume and weight than the alternatives, which means lighter, smaller, and more powerful batteries for us.
According to a report by Phys.org, which quotes former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, a pure lithium anode battery could double or even triple the life of a smartphone, or increase the range of an electric car to 300 miles, but with a $25,000 price tag.
Hearing about new battery tech which could extend the life of our gadgets isn’t anything new. We’ve even heard the Holy Grail reference before too, when it was used to describe silicon being used to make lithium anode batteries. Another recent development, also said to be a breakthrough, is the use of a silicon sponge to lengthen the life of a laptop battery.
As for lithium anode cells, there’s still some work to be done on the overall efficiency, which includes further engineering and testing of new electrolytes, therefore no timeframe on when we can expect a lithium anode battery to be used in a product we can buy has been given.