Some of the world’s greatest innovations were created by accident, and this might just be the latest to add to that list. A Ph.D. student at the University of California at Irvine accidentally discovered a rechargeable battery that could last up to 400 years while playing around in the lab.

The Accidental Rechargeable Battery
Mya Le Thai is one of the researchers working on nanowire technology in chemistry department head Reginald Penner’s lab. These are tiny conductive wires that could be highly beneficial for use in rechargeable batteries. The team had come up against one major roadblock: The wires are extremely fragile. After a certain number of charging cycles, they begin to fray and crack and then stop working. (1)

While working in the lab one day, Mya decided to change the liquid electrolyte surrounding the nanowires with one that is made of gel. When she began cycling them, the entire team had a huge surprise: The batteries were going through thousands of charging cycles without any signs of wear and tear. (1)

“She started to cycle these gel capacitors, and that’s when we got the surprise,” Penner said. “She said, ‘this thing has been cycling 10,000 cycles and it’s still going.’ She came back a few days later and said ‘it’s been cycling for 30,000 cycles.’ That kept going on for a month.” (1)

For context, the typical laptop battery life is between 300 and 500 cycles. (2) This means that we could have ultra-long lasting batteries so that there will be fewer laptops, phones, and lithium-ion batteries piling up in landfills. (1)

“If you could get 100,000 cycles out of a lithium ion battery it might mean you never need to buy two of them,” Penner says. “We’re talking about a lifetime of 20 years, maybe even longer than that.” (2)

How it Works
The researchers currently aren’t sure why the gel prevents the nanowires from breaking down less than other liquids, but they do know generally how the different liquid types work. (1)

According to Penner, nanowires are made of magnesium oxide, are 80% porous, and are hundreds of times thinner than human hair. The gel is about the same thickness as peanut butter. (1)

By baba

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