Samsung's next-gen tech could spawn smaller, supercharged batteries

Samsung researchers have found a way to make silicon a more viable material for future lithium-ion batteries.

Let's face it: batteries suck. The only reason battery life is getting better is because everything else in our devices is getting smaller. That allows manufacturers to make more room for the dang power pack without having to improve anything but the efficiency of the software.

This situation may soon change, however. A team of researchers that includes mostly Samsung-affiliated scientists claim they have found a way to make next-generation lithium ion batteries carry more energy than current batteries even after the 200th discharge cycle. The group recently published their findings in Nature.

The key to the new batteries is silicon, which is a great material for anodes (the electrode through which a battery's electrical current flows) because it can hold a larger charge than graphite-based anodes. Scientists have been talking about silicon anodes for years, and some li-ion batteries are already using silicon because of its larger capacity.

The problem is that when you charge an li-ion battery, you have to insert lithium into the silicon. That causes the anode to expand by as much as 400 percent, according to Nexeon, a company that also works on silicon-based anodes.

The silicon shrinks back to its normal self once the battery discharges, but you need to provide more space in the battery to allow for the silicon's increase in volume with each charge. Plus, that repeated expansion and contraction causes silicon to break down over time. Once that happens, the material loses conductivity and the battery is done--and in a much shorter time frame than current li-ion tech.

To get around the expansion issue, Samsung's researchers say you can take that silicon and grow some carbide-free graphene on it as a coating. This coating helps counteract the expansion, and keeps the silicon intact for a longer period of time. This means you can end up with a smaller battery with a greater capacity than current technology, as first reported by PC Perspective.

The impact on you at home: The Samsung-funded paper makes the technology sound promising. The authors claim the graphene-coated silicon anodes allow for charging densities that are 1.8 times greater than current li-ion batteries on their first charge. By the 200th charge, those anodes are still holding 1.5 times more volumetric energy density than what we have now.

Just don't count on seeing a Samsung battery like this anytime soon. For now, this is just a research paper, but the paper's authors are hopeful this new technique "can serve as a prototype in advancing silicon anodes to commercially viable technology."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags samsungBatteries / fuel cellsBatteriesPhonesComponents

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?