Sand based anode Li-ion batteries offer a three-fold performance boost

A reimagined Lithium Ion battery using sand to create the anode material has outperformed regular Li-ion batteries by three times. The discovery is heralded as an environmentally friendly way to boost Li-ion battery performance – and longer lasting batteries are even more ‘green’.

The research findings come from the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering. Zachary Favors, a graduate student worked on the project alongside professors Cengiz and Mihri Ozkan. Playing into the California stereotype Favors thought of the new anode material after a surfing session whilst lying on the beach.

UCR sand and the battery format in which it was tested

UCR sand and the battery format in which it was tested

Currently carbon is popularly used for anode material but with higher power devices common nowadays Carbon’s properties for this purpose have “been virtually tapped out,” reports Phys.org. When silicon has previously been used as an anode in nanoscale applications it has had a problem of difficulty in production and quick degradation. Favors says that both these obstacles have been overcome thanks to his sand observations. “This is the holy grail – a low cost, non-toxic, environmentally friendly way to produce high performance lithium ion battery anodes,” he exclaimed.

The new method of preparing the silicon relies on sand containing a high percentage of quartz and a couple of purification steps including heating with magnesium once the sand had been ground to the nanoscale. This resulted in very pure silicon which was formed into a very porous style structure. Unexpectedly the pourous nature has improved the anode performance markedly.

How the sand is purified and made into anode material

How the sand is purified and made into anode material

The impact of the discovery could mean that the standard one day cell phone charge you experience now could be three days or so in the future, all else being equal. The innovation could also have a great benefit to other portable electronics and of course electric or hybrid vehicles.

Currently the research team is working to scale up their batteries from the coin sized ‘watch battery’ style devices they tested in the study to larger cells as used in smartphones.

Mark Tyson

Mark has worked for a number of years as a newshound on other technology news websites. He decided to write for Tech Assimilate thanks to this web site's open embracing vision of the fascinating world of personal technology. Mark has also worked in the printing and advertising industries for tens of years previously.

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