Energy

Scientists Create Battery That Doesn’t Need To Be Replaced

REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Scientists at the University of California, Irvine announced Wednesday they created a new battery that can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times, effectively meaning it never has to be replaced.

The research could lead to commercial batteries that last a lot longer for computers, smartphones and numerous other applications.

The new battery uses extremely conductive nanowires, thousands of times thinner than a human hair, which help store and transfer electricity. Typical lithium-ion batteries use similar wires, but they quickly crack and grow brittle, which leads to the battery deteriorating over time. The new battery uses typical gold nanowire that is coated in a manganese dioxide shell, making it much more reliable and longer lasting.

“The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option,” Mya Le Thai, a doctoral candidate and lead author of the research, said in a press statement. “This research proves that a nanowire-based battery electrode can have a long lifetime and that we can make these kinds of batteries a reality.”

The research could ultimately bring down the cost of storing power by making batteries last longer.

It is currently impossible to economically store power for times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Purchasing enough batteries to provide just three days of storage for an average American household costs about $15,000, and those batteries only last for about five years and are very difficult to recycle.

This is true for home power storage as well, even with cutting-edge batteries. One of Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwalls, capable of storing enough electricity to power a home, costs $7,340 to buy. A conservative analysis estimates that a Powerwall would save its owner $1.06 a day and take roughly 40 years to pay for itself. Naturally, Tesla only offers five to 10 year warranties on its Powerwalls, and predicts they will last for only 15 years.

The best option of “storing” power is pumping water up a hill, which actually accounts for 99 percent of all global energy storage.

The research was published in the American Chemical Society’s Energy Letters and funded by the Basic Energy Sciences division of the U.S. Department of Energy.

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