Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have developed a new form of lithium battery that could be used to power all manner of electronic devices from mobile phones to laptop computers.
Standard batteries generate current when lithium ions flow between a negative and positive terminal. This new battery increases the power they generate by using an array of terminals in a sea of lithium ions, effectively acting as hundreds of batteries in the space usually occupied by a single battery.
The breakthrough in the battery design came when the researchers figured out how to grow tiny rods of carbon. This was achieved by using a polymer which hardened upon exposure to UV light. The polymer was deposited onto a substrate through a perforated mask and excess unreacted polymer removed by etching.
The material was then heated at 900°C in an oxygen free atmosphere, burning off atoms such as hydrogen. This left behind carbon rods about half a millimetre tall. The rods were then wired together to act as positive and negative terminals and the space between them infiltrated with lithium ions.
The new battery design has the advantage over more conventional design in that they can generate larger bursts of energy because they use so many alternating terminals. Furthermore, by controlling the number of rows of terminals that are connected together the levels of current available can also be controlled.
The current design was produced on a silicon substrate. This needs to be changed for a cheaper alternative before the new battery design can be economically viable.
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