Current battery technologies are struggling to satisfy the power needs of laptops and other portable electronic devices. But a team of researchers from Stanford University led by assistant professor Yi Cui claim to have found a way to boost the lives of rechargeable lithium ion batteries from 4 hours to up to ten times more.
The breakthrough has to do with a new method of using a silicon anode rather than the traditional graphite anode. Silicon has long been known to have a higher theoretical charge capacity than the graphite anodes currently used, but it degrades quickly as it charges and discharges. Cui's anode, however, does away with this problem by storing the lithium in a forest of tiny silicon nanowires. The nanowires inflate up to four times their normal size as they soak up lithium, but unlike previous silicon anodes, they do not degrade.
Cui has filed a patent on the technology and is considering forming a new company or working alongside an existing battery manufacturer. But a few more years will probably have to pass before this technology actually becomes available, as a handful of mass production issues are still being sorted out. In the mean time, device manufacturers will have to continue focusing on increasing efficiency as a means of increasing battery life.