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Pomegranate-Like Silicon Particles Bring Long-Lasting Li-Ion Batteries

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screen-shot-2014-02-19-at-1-01-12-pmAnother breakthrough from researchers working on improvements of lithium-ion batteries, comes from Standford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

The work presents a fascinating and long-expected way to replace heavy graphite in battery anodes by silicon, allowing the energy storage devices to be much smaller and lighter, hence perfect for all new-generation electronic devices. What makes the news even more exciting, is that the inspiration for the discovery came from the juicy and tasty pomegranate.

Sometimes it is difficult to get excited about yet another story that presents a true innovation in the field of energy storage. It is true that for the past few years, we kept hearing about developments in the field pretty much every other day, but not many of them have actually materialized and become commercially available.

This time, however, the scientists mean business, and their technology could really be the next best thing in the world of electronics. Probably the first indication would be the fact that the findings were published in one of the world’s leading scientific journals, Nature Nanotechnology, where if you see your article it means you have done something truly incredible. I believe the team from Stanford has really done it this time.

To prevent the silicon from degrading and breaking over during the charging and discharging, a problem which many scientists have been trying to tackle for years,  Yi Cui, the founder of Amprius and team, decided to apply carbon rind around pomegranate-seeds-like silicon. The rind prevents a direct contact with the anode, therefore stopping it from reacting with the electrolyte, while at the same time it allows electrical current flow.

The results were incredible. The new battery technology was able to hold up to 97% capacity after 1,000 cycles. It is true that quite a bit of work remains to be done before the invention is turned into a long-lasting commercially available battery, that can serve not only small gadgets, but also electric cars. Nevertheless, the discovery definitely brings us a step closer to making this possible.

Image (c) Stanford University

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