Researchers at the University of California [USC] recently developed a silicon nanowire battery that could easily solve the range and recharging issues of electric vehicles.
If there’s one problem with electric vehicles, it’s the battery. Actually, the problem isn’t the battery, but our perception of it. Pure electric vehicles have a limited range, up to 300 miles for a top-of-the-line Tesla Model S equipped with an 85kWh battery, for example.
After this range is used up, it could take up to eight hours to recharge, or as little as an hour with the Tesla Supercharger. Still, even the Supercharger has problems, that is, they’re not located everywhere, yet, and this is easily five times longer than it takes to refuel a conventional vehicle at innumerable gas stations across the country.
We’ve covered nanowire solar cells that have the potential to double efficiency, but in this case, the USC experiment could result in three times the capacity of a normal lithium ion battery. Additionally, the properties of the new battery allow it to be recharged in as little as ten minutes.
Nanowires have a couple advantages over traditional anode materials, one of which is a greatly increased surface area, which increases the ability of the anode to pass lithium-ions more quickly while cycling. Silicon nanowires, aside from being the most abundant element in the earth, are even more porous than nanowires of other elements. Because of this, when they expand and contract while cycling, they don’t break, as a solid silicon anode does, which means they’ll last longer.
The researchers at USC admit, though, that this is only half the puzzle of a high-performance silicon nanowire lithium-ion battery. They’ll be working on a cathode with similar performance specifications to pair with the new high-performance silicon nanowire anode. The advancement could be commercialized in the next few years, and if so, imagine what a electric vehicle with three times the capacity could do, what, 1,000 miles and recharges in less than half an hour?
“It’s an exciting research. It opens the door for the design of the next generation lithium-ion batteries,” said Chongwu Zhou, professor at USC and team leader of the research.