This research could lead to long-lasting batteries, with a life cycle 400 times longer than normal. And the most curious thing: it was thanks to a chance.
Throughout history, there are cases of inventions that have emerged almost from the rebound. The stainless steel is an example that illustrates well this type of providential accidents. When the British Harry Brearley strolled in the early twentieth century through his laboratory, among the samples of discarded metal alloys over months, he found a jewel in the middle of that cemetery of frustrating experiments. One of the mixtures had stood the test of time without rusting. It was stainless steel. Something similar has happened with this research on batteries.
Brearley sought to create more robust steel for the interior of the canyons. The problem they had was that over time the material deteriorated and they were unusable to shoot. The metallurgist and specialist in the production of steel were over 40 years old when performing these experiments. In principle, he had discarded the sample that would eventually become stainless steel because he considered it too weak. It was not until months later that he rescued her from the storage room to continue investigating her composition.
In this case, it is a team of scientists from the University of California at Irvine, who have created a new system called to form the basis of a battery. The objective was to develop a battery that instead of using liquid used a gel as an electrolyte, in this way the danger of catching fire is significantly reduced, as has sometimes happened with those of lithium-ion. In addition, it would prevent it from getting too hot.
For this, they used gold nanowires. However, instead of the intended objective, they realized that the system could be charged virtually unlimited times, at least compared to what we are used to seeing in current lithium-ion technology. The system maintained its efficiency after 200,000 charge cycles, a figure that far exceeds the life of any current electronic device, be it a smartphone, computer or electric car.
In comparison, a lithium-ion battery maintains its efficiency up to 5,000 or 6,000 life cycles. Scientists cannot explain why their system is able to endure so much. When they tested their development they realized that he had great resilience. Coated with a thin layer of a gel, it could perform thousands of loading and unloading cycles without losing capacity.
Scientists appreciate the value of this finding, although it is true that it remains to be known how this system could be scaled to work on a real battery. Apart from this challenge, development has another burden. Gold is an expensive material, so reaching a mass production would not be easy or, of course, cheap.