by Al Sacco

Stanford Researchers Could Extend Laptop, Mobile Device Battery Life Tenfold

Dec 21, 20072 mins
Data Center

I don’t know about you, but my laptop battery never seems to last as long as I need it to. Even when it’s fully charged, the notebook, a half-year old Lenovo ThinkPad T60, dies within three hours, so I can’t even make it to New York from Boston via train without losing power.

Sure, I could carry extra batteries, but I barely have room for a BlackBerry in my notebook bag, let alone another clunky power unit.

Thanks to a group of Stanford researchers, I may soon be able to fly from Boston to Palo Alto to visit the university’s campus and back, with my laptop fired up the whole time, and never lose power. And that is music to this journalist’s ears.

Stanford Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Yi Cui has discovered a method of using silicon nanowires to create a new, rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery that could power not only your notebook, but that iPod, digital camera and mobile phone, as well. And the batteries can produce 10 times the electricity as those found in most modern laptops and other mobile devices, resulting in as much as 20 hours of device power, according to the Stanford Report.

The secret is in the use of silicon instead of carbon inside the battery’s anode. Li-ion batteries’ storage capacity is dependent upon how much lithium can be stored within their anodes, according to the report. Silicon can hold much more lithium than carbon, but its downfall is that it expands with positively charged lithium ions when being recharged and contracts as the lithium is extracted while in use. The process often causes the silicon to shred and break down, reducing batteries’ effectiveness and lifetime.

Cui’s new battery addresses this issue via nanotechnology, the report says. Lithium is held within a collection of miniature silicon nanowires, which can quadruple in size as they absorb the element, and they don’t fracture like other silicon shapes.

Cui told the Stanford Report the development is “revolutionary,” and that the batteries could be used in commercial settings in the near future.

Cui also said that a patent application has already been filed, and he is considering the formation of a company that would sell the batteries or a partnership with an existing battery maker.