Germanium, a semiconductor, is believed to double the capacity of Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries with the help of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology, the science of how materials react differently when their dimensions are brought down to nanometer range. Nanowires are wires (or threads) which have thickness in the range of nanometers( 10-9 ).
A research team, from Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI), University of Limerick, led by Dr Kevin Ryan has quoted :
We have developed a new germanium nanowire-based anode that has the ability to greatly increase the capacity and lifetimes of lithium-ion batteries. This breakthrough is important for mobile computing and telecoms but also for the emerging electric vehicle market allowing for smaller and lighter batteries that can hold more charge for longer and maintain this performance over the lifetime of the product.
The magic of nanotechnology here is, when germanium was in normal form it was facing problem of expanding when the battery was charged and after charging the germanium wires used to break and deformed.
Image Source : Nanotechweb.org
While currently the anodes of battery are designed using graphite and silicon, they have battery cycles rated in measure of hundreds and the battery designed using germanium nanowires as anode has already reached 1000 cycles in its research phase.
Dr. Ryan also quoted :
“The typical lithium-ion battery on the market today is based on graphite and has a relatively low capacity. This limits the amount of energy which can be stored. In our research we used an alternative element, germanium, which is of a higher-capacity. The challenge has been that the material expands quite dramatically during charging and falls apart after a relatively small number of cycles. By using nanotechnology, we have found a way to restructure germanium, in the form of nanowires, into a stable porous material that is an ideal battery material as it remains stable over very long time scales during continued operation.”
The battery is going to be scalable, low cost and low energy and easy to produce than currently used technologies. The future if electric cars, laptop and smartphones seems to be “bright”.