Over the last decade or so it’s become increasingly obvious that the limits of battery technology are a pothole on our road to the future. They’ve made a battery that takes 200,000 charge cycles, says, “Is that all you got?” and keeps going. That’s 400 times the charges that a lithium battery can handle.
Penner’s lab had been experimenting with replacing lithium with gold nanowires-they’re thousands of times thinner than a human hair and very conductive, with a large surface area for storing and transferring electrons.
The goal was to make a solid-state battery, without the liquid lithium batteries contain that makes them overly sensitive to heat and combustible. At UCI, PhD candidate Mya Le Thai got the idea of suspending the brittle nanowire in a protective electrolyte gel after coating them with manganese oxide.
UCI suspects the gel makes the nanowire more pliable, and thus prevent the cracking that ended previous experiments.