updated 04:05 pm EST, Wed December 19, 2007
Stanford Nanowire Battery
A new nanotechnology development should produce a major increase in the power available from lithium-ion battery technology, according to a report from Stanford University. While current batteries are limited to holding a relatively small amount of lithium by the need to use carbon for the anode that supplies the battery's current, the new technique developed by assistant professor Yi Cui instead uses a nest of silicon nanowires to hold the lithium. This allows far more lithium to fit into the battery while avoiding the swelling damage that occurs if larger silicon patterns are used.
The technique should allow as much as a tenfold jump in battery power for a lithium-ion battery with all other factors being equal: a 2-hour notebook battery from today would run for 20 hours and may last an entire cross-ocean flight. This could also apply to iPods and other handheld devices where maximizing the energy from a small battery is important, Cui observes.
By using a combination of two separately mature technologies, the nanowire battery technology should be relatively quick to market, according to the professor. No deals have yet been struck for production, but Cui notes that he has filed for a patent on the technique and intends to either form a company or negotiate with one to translate the battery improvement to shipping products.