It’s hard to resist the tug of a smile when imagining electrical engineers playing with silly putty. Dismiss the grin, switch playful imagination for objectivity, and we see the reality of the situation. The engineers of Riverside Bourns College of Engineering are actually researching ways to improve the efficiency of batteries with the aid of a compound found within silly putty. Thanks to this research, the nervous twitch of focus from smartphone screen to flashing low-battery icon may soon be a thing of the past.
Maximizing the Life of the Lithium Ion Battery
Used in countless mobile devices, the lithium ion battery is popular for its small dimensions and high capacity output. News headlines are sending ripples of interest throughout the electronics industry with talk of a novel way of tripling the life of these popular batteries. All that’s required is the introduction of a novel material found within the pliable toy known as silly putty. Of course, the engineering involved is a touch more complex than mixing the substance with the innards of a Li-Ion battery. In short, it’s molecular chemistry to the rescue.
Nanotube Designed for Longer Life
Revolutionizing portable energy storage technology is no small matter. Some believe the perfect battery to be the Holy Grail of mobile technology, enabling frustrated commuters to use their tablets and smartphones all day on a single charge. Imagine watching multiple high-definition movies on a skinny mobile device during a Trans-Atlantic flight, or playing a processor-intensive game during the same flight. Silicon dioxide, a chemical component of silly putty, is the key to making these mobile dreams a reality. Engineers have uncovered the full potential of silicon dioxide as a super-efficient anode by altering its molecular structure. This involves forming the silicon dioxide molecules into intricate nanotube lattices. The consequent improvement to anodes due to this molecular engineering magic could potentially result in storage gains of 3 times as much energy as standard Li-Ion batteries.
Market Realistic Makeup
Producing nanometer-scale silicon dioxide nanotubes presents something of a challenge considering the base of usage for lithium ion batteries. Every digital SLR camera, major smartphone manufacturer, and laptop computer company uses this form of power source. Developing practical anodes made from nanotubes of silicon dioxide, uniform molecular structures made of this primary ingredient of silly putty, is going to take time and investment. But the potential is huge. Silicon, as all semiconductor companies are aware, is an abundant element. It’s also non-toxic and easy to work with as it’s used in the electronic circuitry of so many devices.
Breakthroughs in battery technology reap high rewards for investors. Simply put, this is the final frontier in creating the perfect mobile product. The exotic materials and complex chemical soups utilized in these power sources already deliver a remarkable energy output and long life but not enough to cope with an entire day’s heavy usage. Utilizing this plentiful material found in silly putty could be the key to leaving battery chargers at home, to reducing energy consumption and being truly environmentally friendly in an age where the mobile device is valued above all else.
A recently completed scientific study will revolutionize the makeup of lithium ion batteries. It seems that what scientists have assumed is the slowest part of the chemical reaction in the battery is wrong, and it has been wrong for years. Batteries have been designed with the intention of increasing the speed of this reaction, thus speeding up the battery process, hopefully leading to increased voltage output. The mystery is as the chemical reaction time was decreased by new designs, the reaction times were not improved; this was especially true at high and low voltage use of the battery.
In a process long used, but perhaps not fully understood, current has been used to assist electroplating and the operation of batteries. The system involves an electrolyte base fluid, usually an acid that has a specially coated plate, usually with carbon, dipped into it. When voltage is applied, a current is developed by the ions from the fluid being attracted to the compound on the plate. When the current is stopped, the reaction reverses, with the acid attracting the ions back into solution. Eventually, the battery will wear out due to fluid loss or rusting of the plates in the battery. The electrodes are porous, meaning they have open areas in their structure that allow for the collecting of electrons in the material that makes up the electrode. The carbon does not change during this process. Lithium ion batteries make use of this process.
In general, if you want to improve the reaction time of a chemical compound, you need to speed up the processes that show everything down. It was long thought the event that controlled the speed of these reactions in lithium ion batteries, the limiting factor, was the speed by which the ions travel from the solution to solid compound on the plate. There are a series of equations, Butler-Volmer equations, developed in the 1930s that can predict the time loss involved in this process. This allows a battery to be designed for optimal ion flow. Or, until recently, so it was thought.
It turns out this theory fails to predict the correct speed flows at parts of the lithium ion battery operation, and these are critical areas such as low and high voltage of the batteries. As lithium ion batteries have become more capable of generating higher voltages, the more the Butler-Volmer equations were out of line. Now, two professors at MIT, Peng Bai and Martin Bazant, have found out why. They have developed a method to measure the speeds of the transfers that occur during the reactions in the battery. It turns out that the ion transfer is not really the limiting factor in this reaction, although it can appear that way at some voltages. The real limiting factor is actually the electronic transfer between the solid layers of the plates. This is the transfer between the plate compound and the its coating. The transfer of ions in solution is almost instantaneous under all circumstances, so does not actually limit the battery in any way.
To truly design lithium ion batteries to reflect the actions at the atomic level, a new set of equations is needed. These reactions are described by the Marcus-Hush-Chidsey equations of electron transfer. This new information will be considered in all future lithium ion batteries and should lead to more efficient batteries that can produce higher currents. It could make battery charged cars much more of a reality than is possible at the current time.
In recent years there have been steep advances in electronics, and with it all, an equally strong public interest that has led many to utilize various forms of technology in everyday life. However, with all of the new gadgets, there also comes the hassle of keeping everything in order. A person can quickly become overwhelmed by the responsibility of maintaining a growing collection of electronic items. Luckily, there are many ways to streamline the growing complications.
One great way to recycle old electronics is to turn them into media centers. Programs such as Plex or XBMC are easily downloaded onto old operating systems, or even flashed onto old hardware that can then be connected to a TV for a personal home media center.
After so much time, the multitude of electronic gadgets that can be attached to modern entertainment centers begins to create a mess. A great way to organize the wires is with common twisty ties. This will get rid of the cluttered look behind your entertainment center and they come with everything from food to electronics.
Use old smartphones as remote controls. Although cell phones don’t have service once the sim card is removed, they can still be connected to the internet. App markets have remote controls for everything from computers to those media centers that were discussed earlier.
Another great way to satisfy the growing need for electronics is to re-purpose old computer parts. Instead of simply throwing out old computers, or any electronic items, check to see if there are old parts that can be reused. Even if the parts aren’t useful to you personally, they can sometimes be sold online for a little extra cash.
Old plugs and adapters tend to get worn down, but that doesn’t mean they should be immediately discarded. Sometimes with a simple set of wire cutters, they can be spliced, and will work fine so long as the bare wires are covered well with the proper electrical tape.
Networking all the computers within a home is a great way to save time by sharing media and other files. Instead of having to copy to a USB drive, or a cloud service, a common file system can be accessed by all the computers within the network.
Keep email clean and sorted by unsubscribing to spam. Use mail clients to organize different accounts. Keep contacts well updated and sorted as well.
It could also help to learn keyboard shortcuts on the computer. Many people never learned simple things like tabbing on selections to go the next one or pressing escape to exit a video that can help to simplify navigation.
Use TVs USB ports to power electronic items. If there are certain electronic gadgets that you only want to have on when the TV turns on then doing this will allow them to power on and off with the push of a button.
Many video game consoles can be modified in order to convert them into virtual gaming arcades. This is an easy way to create hours of entertainment for the whole family.