Lithium batteries? No one seems to realize the strain that the batteries which power our electronic devices have to withstand, especially while our MP3 players, mobile phones and gizmos become more and more powerful and demanding in terms of power needed to operate them.
Therefore, the life of normal rechargeable lithium-ion batteries is hard, and in order to significantly improve their performance, a research team from Georgia Institute of Technology is working on a new type of electrodes, made up of silicon-based composite materials.
What are lithium batteries made of?
Currently, the lithium batteries’ electrodes are made up of graphite, and generate an electric current by transferring lithium ions between the cathode and the anode. The silicon electrodes can transfer those ions at a speed 10 times higher, thus also increasing tenfold the battery capacity, and of course the duration of a single recharge.
The problem at this stage seems to be stability of this new type of electrodes; in fact, at each charge/discharge phase, the material in the electrodes expands and contracts. If you replace a graphite particle with one of silicon of the same size, the expansion and contraction would soon end up cracking the electrode.
Researchers are working in this direction, using nanoparticles which, along with solving this problem, allow storage of a larger amount of energy in a smaller battery, thus considerably increasing (up to 10 times, as said before) a battery’s capacity and power in the same size.
In a not so distant future, the batteries of our mobile phones, for example, might get smaller and need to be recharged only once every month or two: you will finally have no trouble when you forget your battery charger at home before leaving for your holidays!