Tin nanowhiskers triple battery capacity, on the market in a year

With a few exceptions, most of the battery technology that we write about isn't exactly close to making your gadgets better in the near term. This battery technology is, and it could triple battery capacity within a year.

Batteryologists at Washington State University have figured out a way to make lithium-ion batteries using an anode made of tin instead of graphite. The anode, as I'm sure you know, is the place where all of those lithium ions are stored, and when the ions flow from the anode to the cathode, they discharge a horde of electrons along the way and that's how your stuff gets power. Most lithium-ion batteries use anodes made of graphite, but tin can store nearly three times as much energy.

The problem with tin (as opposed to graphite) is that when you make electronics (or battery guts) with it in a cheap and efficient manner, the tin grows what's called "whiskers," which are spiky things that can cause short-circuits and other damage and after 60 years of trying nobody's been able to eradicate them in a mass-production environment. The WSU researchers figured that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and they've managed to just get the tin whiskers to grow in an orderly manner at the nanoscale, providing lots of surface area to store charge without causing lots of problems.

Since the tin whisker anodes can be electroplated, they actually cost less to make than a traditional graphite anode. They also hold three times the charge, can be recharged more quickly, last longer, and hold three times the charge. Did we mention that they hold three times the charge? And since manufacturers don't have to change battery form factors or add an expensive new production process, the WSU researchers are optimistic (perhaps too optimistic, but still) that they can have these new lithium-ion-tin-nanowhisker batteries on the market "within a year."

WSU, via Forbes

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