Reader ddrew2u sends this post:
Readers of December’s Popular Mechanics know that Stanford University scientists have already engineered a lithium ion enhancement that promises to multiply charge capacity ability about four times in the short term and as much as ten times in the long term.
For 30 years it has been known that building lithium ion batteries with silicon wires (instead of carbon wires) could yield ten times the power holding ability but, because silicon wires expanded and contracted too much as they cycled, they quickly destroyed themselves. The development of nano wires – about a thousandth of the width of a sheet of paper — has solved that drawback — while potentially making lithium ion batteries more stable (safer) at the same time!
Near term, only the anode side of the batteries will be manufactured with nano wires, yielding the quadruple jump (up powering GM’s Volt to go 160 miles on one charge instead of 40?). Long term, when the cathode side can be manufactured with silicon nano wires the ten multiple target is expected to be reached (introducing hybrid, long distant trucks?).
Maybe someone should donate a Popular Mechanics subscription to the McCain campaign — could save the Treasury $300 million dollars.
Rdan here: Additional information below
Stanford researchers have found a way to use silicon nanowires to reinvent the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power laptops, iPods, video cameras, cell phones, and countless other devices.
The new technology, developed through research led by Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. A laptop that now runs on battery for two hours could operate for 20 hours, a boon to ocean-hopping business travelers.
“It’s not a small improvement,” Cui said. “It’s a revolutionary development.”
The breakthrough is described in a paper, “High-performance lithium battery anodes using silicon nanowires,” published online Dec. 16 in Nature Nanotechnology, written by Cui, his graduate chemistry student Candace Chan and five others.
“Usually people want low surface area to make batteries safe,” says Mark Obrovac, senior scientist at the 3M Lithium Ion Battery Laboratory. “The surface area of a nanowire electrode must be astronomical.” Adds Obrovac: “It’s a great thing he’s done making silicon cycle, but it will require a lot of work before we’ll see this in a commercial application.”
Research on silicon in batteries began three decades ago. Chan explained: “The people kind of gave up on it because the capacity wasn’t high enough and the cycle life wasn’t good enough. And it was just because of the shape they were using. It was just too big, and they couldn’t undergo the volume changes.”
I am a sucker for improvements that are part of a bigger system and catch me by surprise.