Yet another chapter is about to be written in the history of lithium ion batteries. Present in almost any device from earpieces to electric cars, there is a need to use them in micro- or nano-sized devices. A DARPA-funded project aims at creating the smallest lithium ion batteries ever, as small as a grain of sand.
The designer is Jane Chang, from the University of California. She presented her work yesterday, at the AVS 57th International Symposium and Exhibition in New Mexico. Basically, what she is trying to do is to create a battery that has the same energy density as a regular lithium ion battery but with the much smaller size.
Chang and her UCLA team designed the electrolyte that allows electricity to flow between the battery’s electrodes. She coated well-ordered micro-pillars (nanowires) with electrolyte through a technology called atomic layer deposition, an atom-thick layer at a time. The nanowires she used had been made to maximize the surface-to-volume ratio, for increased energy density.
It is yet premature to say when this type of micro-battery will hit the market, but it seems that electrodes have also been developed for it, and all the researchers will need to do is assemble them into a functional prototype. After that, they will probably form a spin-off company that will sell the patent on the invention to manufacturers.