Researchers have stumbled upon a battery breakthrough that could change energy storage forever

UCI battery gelUniversity of California IrvineMya Le Thai with her gel-based solution.

There’s serious demand for longer-lasting batteries.

Better battery storage can advance all sorts of technology from phones to electric cars — but increasing battery life is no easy feat.

Luckily, researchers hailing from the University of California Irvine may have accidentally discovered a solution that could change energy storage forever.

Fifth-year pHd student Mya Le Thai stumbled upon the solution when she decided to create an electrolyte made of gel to replace the liquid electrolyte found in some batteries “so it’d be more affordable,” she told Tech Insider. It just so happened that the gel she created can also greatly increase battery life.

Here’s how the solution works: for a long time researchers have sought to use nanowire-based batteries over lithium batteries. That’s because nanowires are more powerful and boast greater energy storage than their lithium counterparts.

Lithium batteries slip in performance over time after being continuously charged (think of your phone: that battery life is great at first and slowly gets worse until it’s a shell of its former self.)

But what has prevented researchers from using nanowires is they are extremely fragile, meaning they can’t be charged repeatedly without breaking. For that reason, electronics makers have stuck with traditional lithium batteries.

But Thai’s gel solution could change that.

The researchers coated a gold nanowire with Thai’s gel solution and found that the nanowire-based battery cell had far better storage capacity than typical lithium ion batteries.

The gel electrode went through 200,000 charge cycles over three months without losing any capacity or power. For reference, batteries typically die after 5,000 to 7,000 cycles.

The gel solution was published in the American Chemical Society’s Energy Letters.

“For this research right now the plan is to understand the mechanisms of how this gel electrolyte could prolong the cyclibility so well,” Thai said. “The future bigger plan would be to optimise these gel electrolytes to see if it can improve even more.”

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