What happens when opportunity meets preparation? A brilliant example was from 2016 when doctoral student Mya Le Thai made a discovery at the University of California, Irvine. After tinkering in the lab, she stumbled onto something that could enable her to create a rechargeable battery that will last for 400 years. What does this mean? It means that you will be able to enjoy laptops with longer-lasting batteries and smartphones that don’t need to be charged every 5 hours. It also implies that a lesser amount of lithium-ion batteries will end up in landfills.
As it happens, a team of researchers at UCI had been carrying out experiments using nanowires for potential use in batteries. However, the team soon learned that the fragile and thin wires usually break down and crack after a number of charging cycles. What is a charge cycle you ask? It is when a battery is completely drained and then charged fully again.
Reginald Penner, chair of the university’s chemistry department, said, ‘She started to cycle these gel capacitors, and that’s when we got the surprise. She said, ‘this thing has been cycling 10,000 cycles, and it’s still going.’ She came back a few days later and said ‘it’s been cycling for 30,000 cycles.’ That kept going on for a month.’
The discovery is amazing because your average laptop battery only survives about 300 to 500 charge cycles. The nanobattery that has been developed at UCI survived 200,000 cycles in three months. This extends the life of your average laptop battery by almost 400 years. Penner said, ‘The big picture is that there may be a very simple way to stabilize nanowires of the type that we studied. If this turns out to be generally true, it would be a great advance for the community.’
We are totally up for such batteries that could last us a lifetime!