With technology almost always at our fingertips, itâ€™s hard to avoid constantly being on our smart phone, camera, or tablet. It distracts us from our boredom, connects us quickly to friends, helps navigate us to local restaurants, and points out the nearest gas stations when weâ€™re running low on fuel.
With technology almost always at our fingertips, itâ€™s hard to avoid constantly being on our smart phone, camera, or tablet. It distracts us from our boredom, connects us quickly to friends, helps navigate us to local restaurants, and points out the nearest gas stations when weâ€™re running low on fuel. But the constant use of these devices has one major downfall that every user dreads: the dead battery.
Current technology is limited in regards to battery life. Not only does it affect our personal devices, but the lack of energy storage is also a critical issue in the energy sector, especially wind farms and solar power plants. Currently, there is no affordable, long-life battery that stores large amounts of energy for those overcast days or windless afternoons. Todayâ€™s batteries are expensive, have problems with heat output, limited lifespans, and are toxic or corrosive.
However, a new prototype is in the works at start-up company lead by Amy Prieto, a chemist at Colorado State University. The company is working on developing an energy storage device that combats these major issues, with the addition of being more environmentally friendly than standard batteries. The battery is based around a copper foam structure, which serves as the current collector on the anode side of the battery. The foam has a 3D structure that increases the surface area of the electrodes and brings them closer together, which in turn increases the power density of the battery. According to Prieto, "In terms of energy density, the foam should also get more bang for the buck. The intricate 3D structures utilize the electrode material more efficiently than a flat surface."
The team also uses electroplating equipment made from copper antimonide, which is inexpensive compared to the equipment needed to make other types of batteries.
The team has calculated that the foam battery should store the same amount of energy as conventional batteries in two-thirds the volume, charge five to ten times faster, and last up to ten times longer.
Less than one year away from completing the prototype, the team already plans on testing the foam battery on electric bikes and portable electronics. "This was my personal dream," says Prieto. "I didn't think it would actually work, but it now looks like it will."
Cell phone image via Shutterstock.