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Nov 21 2013

Geek Think: Self Healing Batteries are Coming

Broken-batteryJust yesterday I was discussing with a colleague about the problems that exist in device design and manufacturing today. Sounds like more of an interesting conversation than it actually was. You see the problem we were discussing is built-in batteries and how they are becoming very common and how that’s an awful trend. Take your iPhone for example, and smash it on the ground, the battery can’t be removed and replaced. So when that battery inevitably fails you have to get a new phone. This is wonderful for Apple and other manufactures of “Planned Obsolescence” devices because it guarantees then a steady income stream. For us simple consumers that sucks and we should push back.

There is a group working to fix this problem. The best part is that their solution will help both sides. Chao Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, and a team there are working on a self-healing polymer that can be used to coat the outside of batteries to help make then more corrosion and damage resistant. It doesn’t sound like the battery itself will be any better but there will be some protection against the natural forces that act on it.

The polymer contains carbon nano-tubes so it will conduct electricity, so they’re not rendering the battery useless by just dipping it in rubber. Right now the polymer is only lasting for about 100 charge/discharge cycles which the group says is well lower than their goal of 500 cycles for cellphone batteries and 3000 cycles for electric vehicles. But they’re working on that.

My question is why are they stopping at such low numbers? That still means they expect the batteries to fail after less that two years for phones and just over 8 years for vehicles. Why give battery makers an excuse. Here’s you’re new goal team, make a coating that will last for 100,000 cycles so that battery makers don’t have an excuse not to develop a battery that lasts at least that long. The world is depending on you.

Hit the jump for a fun video of a balloon coated in the new polymer.

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