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For quite some time, scientists have yearned to be able to use nanowires in batteries, but have been unable to do so. Now, Irvine researchers from the University of California have invented just that, and this breakthrough could mean great things for various major industries.

Anything that runs on a battery will eventually die unless the battery is replaced. Because of how conductive they are, nanowires are a desirable candidate for a battery, because more electrons can flow through and be stored for use. But, because of how fragile they are-they have rarely held up well in previous attempts.

As a proposed solution to this, a group of researchers coated a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and encased the entire assembly in another electrode that they had created out of a plexiglass type of material. Lead researcher and UCI doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai cycled tests on the electrode up to 200,000 times over three months and there was no loss of power or capacity.

“Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it,” says Reginald Penner, chair of UCI’s chemistry department. “She discovered that, just by using this gel, she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity.”

If you think about it- this is pretty amazing. Most laptops only cycle 300-500 charge cycles before dying, and the one created by Thai made it through 200,000 cycles in three months. To put that into perspective, if a nanowire battery was used in your laptop, it would last 400 years. Now, imagine that for your phone, your car, your laptop, and everything else.

“The big picture is that there may be a very simple way to stabilize nanowires of the type that we studied,” Penner said. “If this turns out to be generally true, it would be a great advance for the community.”