Non-stop power from a battery with unlimited shelf life. Sounds like a pipe dream, right? Maybe not. Scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed an eco-friendly silicon-air battery capable of powering devices for thousands of hours before replacement.
The batteries are created from silicon and oxygen, are lightweight, and have a high tolerance for both extremely dry conditions and high humidity. The creators say that the new battery could be used for medical applications like hearing aids or diabetic pumps, but also for microelectronics and sensors.
“Silicon-air batteries will be used like the ones already in use today. But by using silicon—a safe, non-toxic, stable and more common material—we can create very lightweight batteries with infinite shelf life and high energy capacity.” – lead researcher Yair Ein-Eli
The built-in cathode of conventional batteries is not present in silicon-air batteries, so significant savings could be realized in both weight and cost. The oxygen in our atmosphere is the cathode in silicon-air batteries and current metal-air batteries (used in hearing aids already). Because silicon and oxygen are the two most abundant elements on our planet, this battery could be a breakthrough in clean energy manufacturing.
The researchers estimate that silicon-air batteries can be made more powerful and rechargeable as well in three or four years, and in ten years, it might be possible to build batteries for electric cars from silicon that can be recycled over and over again.
The research was published in the October 2009 issue of Electrochemistry Communications.