Could future smartphone batteries be made even better using plain old beach sand? PhoneArena points us to a new study published at Nature.com that shows using beach sand as the primary ingredient for a smartphone battery’s anode could yield considerable improvements in terms of power efficiency.
The anode is the component of the battery that serves as a terminal where positive electrical currents flow inside the battery from outside sources. PhoneArena points out that while smartphone battery anodes are typically made of graphite, it seems that researchers at the University of California and the Bourns College of Engineering have found that milling beach sand, purifying it and adding salt and magnesium to the mix while heating it was enough to make it into pure silicon that could be a better material for anodes.
The most important finding here is that the silicon created by this particular process proved to be very porous, which is a key factor in making batteries that use the material more efficient.
“We have demonstrated a highly scalable, cheap, and environmentally benign synthesis route for producing nano-Si with outstanding electrochemical performance over 1000 cycles,” the researchers write. “The outstanding performance of the nano-Si@C electrodes can be attributed to a number of factors including the highly porous interconnected 3D network of nano-Si, the conformal 4 nm C-coating, and the use of PAA as an effective binder for C and Si electrodes.”
Given how important smartphone battery power has become to many prospective buyers, we imagine component manufacturers will certainly give this research a long, hard look to see if they can use it for developing future products.