Feeds

JESUS battery HEALS itself - might make electric cars more practical

Stanford boffins' remarkable cladding produced Miracle-'lectrode

3 Big data security analytics techniques

Stanford researchers say they have cracked a key problem holding back lithium-ion batteries: which might make the next generation of phones, e-cars and other battery powered equipment a whole lot better.

The issue the researchers were facing is that silicon - though an excellent substance from which to make a modern battery electrode, as it has a high capacity for absorbing and then releasing lithium ions during charging and discharging - swells up and contracts massively when so used. In fact a silicon electrode increases in size by no less than three times over and then returns to its original size duing a charge-discharge cycle, and this naturally tends to mean that it comes to bits in fairly short order.

This is a major underlying reason why li-ion batteries often have a fairly poor service life. That's not a crippling problem in a smartphone - even if it's an iPhone or similar, designed in such a way that it's hard to replace the battery, people tend to get a new phone quite often. But it is a big deal in a much more expensive electric car: while a lot of people change cars frequently, they expect them still to be in saleable condition when they've finished with them - without any need to replace the major component of the power train.

The general distrust felt by the motor industry regarding battery service life, based on many years of beta tests with small groups of vehicles, is one major reason why not very many battery cars are being made. Even Tesla Motors, the flagship firm for battery cars, has admitted in SEC filings that battery life may yet become a major problem for it as its cars age.

But now the Stanford boffins say they're on the track of a fix. They have developed an astronishingly strong and stretchy polymer which can be coated onto a silicon electrode in use. As cracks form, the coating "heals" them. Here's a vid of a balloon coated with the stuff being inflated and deflated, indicating just how stretchy it is:

Play Video

“Self-healing is very important for the survival and long lifetimes of animals and plants,” says Chao Wang, a postdoc researcher at Stanford. “We want to incorporate this feature into lithium ion batteries so they will have a long lifetime as well.”

Thus far, the silicon+gunge electrodes aren't ready for prime time: they can only do 100 charge cycles before starting to lose performance.

“That’s still quite a way from the goal of about 500 cycles for cell phones and 3,000 cycles for an electric vehicle,” admits Wang's colleague professor Yi Cui, “but the promise is there, and from all our data it looks like it’s working.”

So this technology isn't going to manufacturing yet, or perhaps ever if it can't be improved. But it is impressive enough that it has led to an article by the Stanford lab crew getting published in Nature Chemistry. And perhaps the amazing stretchy-stuff might have other uses, as well. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
So, just how do you say 'the mutt's nuts' in French?
Vital linguistic question interrupts LOHAN spaceplane mission
95 floors in 43 SECONDS: Hitachi's new ultra-high-speed lift
Guangzhou skyscraper denizens to hold on to hats
Most Americans doubt Big Bang, not too sure about evolution, climate change – survey
Science no match for religion, politics, business interests
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
STEALTHY NANOROBOTS dress up as viruses, prepare to sneak into YOUR BODY
Cloaking techniques nicked from viruses tackle roadblocks on way to medical frontier
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.