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The new electrode is made of silicon and coated with a self-healing polymer

Smartphones are increasingly able to do more and more as they evolve, but these enhanced capabilities also drain the battery much quicker. And electric vehicles are a promising way to help the environment and save money at the pump, but electric range remains a concern for drivers who don't want a dead battery when traveling from point A to point B.

In other words, lithium-ion batteries that power devices and vehicles used today could always use extra charge capacity. Now, researchers at Stanford and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have found a potential way of doing just that. 

According to a new report from Forbes, the scientists have developed a self-healing battery electrode that will allow for greater charge capacity in lithium-ion batteries. 

Researchers have seen silicon as a potential battery electrode material for awhile now because it's capable of holding large amounts of energy while the battery charges, which extends its life. 

The problem is that silicon electrodes expand when they're charged, and contract when the electrons release. This causes them to stress and crack from the expansion until electrons can no longer be stored.

 

 
But the latest study aims to fix that problem by coating the silicon electrodes with self-healing polymer. When this polymer expands, it also cracks like the silicon. However, the broken bonds of the polymer "attract" one another, and returns back to its original shape. 

By coating the silicon with this sort of material, it can expand all it wants without cracking, and the electrodes can continue storing more energy without worry.

So far, the technology appears to be working. The researchers have put the electrodes through 100 charge-discharge cycles without any issues.

However, the team said the coated electrodes need to achieve 500 cycles for smartphones and 3,000 cycles for electric vehicles, so further testing is necessary before it can be considered a sure thing. 

"The ability to repair damage spontaneously, which is termed self-healing, is an important survival feature in nature because it increases the lifetime of most living creatures," said the team in their study. "This feature is highly desirable for rechargeable batteries because the lifetime of high-capacity electrodes, such as silicon anodes, is shortened by mechanical fractures generated during the cycling process."

Source: Forbes



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