Feeds

JESUS battery HEALS itself - might make electric cars more practical

Stanford boffins' remarkable cladding produced Miracle-'lectrode

Application security programs and practises

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.