Sand-Based Batteries to Improve Lithium Ion Batteries By 3 Times

Another day, another experiment showing alternative ways to create better electric batteries. After seeing molten air and carbon based batteries earlier, today we’ll have a look at a new type of lithium ion batteries built using sand. Yep, that one burning your feet at the beach.
Sand-based battery 1 photo
Photo: UCR
Researchers at the University of California have created a lithium ion battery based on sand that outperforms its standard production counterpart by three times.

“This is the holy grail – a low cost, non-toxic, environmentally friendly way to produce high performance lithium ion battery anodes,” said Zachary Favors, a graduate student working with Cengiz and Mihri Ozkan, both engineering professors at UC Riverside.

How did they discover sand is good for batteries? Well it’s kinda funny - six months ago Zachary was chilling at the beach when he suddenly realized that sand is mostly made out of quartz. Which is the same thing with silicon dioxide, a material good for electricity stuff.

He then started researching, focusing on the batteries’ anode, the negative side of it which currently uses graphite. And since electronics are more powerful these days, graphite is a bit outdated.

Zachary searched for sand that has a higher percentage of quartz, took it in the lab and milled it down to nanometer scale. After a series of purification steps, he grounded salt and magnesium into the fine quartz powder and then started to heat up the whole concoction.

The process helped removing all the oxygen from the quartz, thus resulting in pure silicon, that formed in a very porous 3D sponge-like consistency, which seems to be the key to improve the performance of batteries.

Lifespan of silicon-based batteries could now go up 3 times over current lithium ion versions. Your electric vehicle will pack more power and will need fewer recharges. Same goes for your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
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