'Accidental gel' discovery could lead to death of removable phone batteries


If you've got a phone that's over 18 months old, chances are you're in that period where you remember the halcyon days of it holding charge for a full day, rather than the 10-12 seconds you're blessed with once it's unplugged.

The fact is that smartphone batteries degrade over time due to the amount of charging cycles they're subjected to - but new research from the University of California may have revealed a solution.

Scientists have found a way to create part of a battery out of nanowires that can handle over 200,000 cycles of charge without any degradation in performance, meaning it'll easily outlast the time you'll have the phone (unless it's a Nokia phone from the '90s. There's nothing that can outlast that).

Nanowires, according to phys.org, have long been sought as the next solution in smartphone batteries, as they're thinner and have a greater surface area for improved charge. However, the issue with constant charging is that the materials inside shrink and grow under heat, which leads to internal fractures and cracking over time.

The new research seems to have solved that problem though, by coating the gold nanowire to give it a protective membrane that helps keep it safe from cracking and ultimately failing.

Gel fun

"Mya [Le Thai, UCI doctoral candidate and study leader] was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it," Reginald Penner, senior author of the study and UCI's chemistry department chair, told phys.org.

"She discovered that just by using this gel, she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity."

However, there are many obstacles between this breakthrough and seeing the technology in our smartphones - for one, the research has to be scaled to full production capacity (providing it can be proven at a larger scale) and other battery components need to be able to withstand these charging cycles too.

The good news is, if successful, we'd no longer need to remove the batteries in our phones in case of failure, so designs could become more streamlined and alternative shapes could be used.

And it's not just smartphones that would benefit either, as industrial-grade machinery and computing could have a longer operational lifespan as a result of these findings.

Then again, this isn't the first time we've reported on a battery breakthrough and we're still waiting for the 'big change' to come…

From phys.org via BGR

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.