A better mousetrap… err, battery

I was pretty excited to hear that the iPad actually delivers on the promised battery life, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw this PopSci article claiming a “five-fold increase in li-ion battery capacity”:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100315104040.htm by using a graphite anode. WHAT!?

For audience members not wishing to read a lengthy article on a subject matter that is great for those in need of a nap, I’ll break it down. Batteries, as you’ll remember from science class, work by placing an anode and cathode in to an electrolyte. The chemical composition of these components results in a migration of ions from the anode to the cathode. This migration of ions produces the flow of electricity that we expect from a battery — _yes, a gross over-simplification… nerd_.

In a normal lithium ion batteries (the type used in laptops, hybrid cars, cell phones, etc), the anode is composed of graphite. Graphite is good in this application because it is durable. A battery dies when the anode and cathode are destroyed through the chemical reaction that makes a battery work. Graphite is durable, so it makes a good anode. However, silicon allows the ions to flow more quickly, so it not only produces a more powerful battery, but a more efficient one. The trouble is that silicon isn’t nearly as durable.

KAPOW! Enter, nano technology.

bq. …by tapping into self-assembling nanotech, the Georgia Tech team has created a silicon composite material that circumvents the degradation issue…

So, silicon + new self-assembling nanotech = durable silicon anode. Problem solved, If they can manage to industrialize the production of this nano-material, we’ll all be browsing the web on our iPads for days on end.

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