Scientists looking to algae for battery longevity

Nature seems to have an answer for everything, including your smartphone’s fast-dying battery. A group of scientists, looking for a way to increase the life of the ordinary Li-Ion battery have stumbled upon an unexpected discovery involving algae.

Scientists from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore used carbon to create a new type of battery component that copies the way algae form in nature.

In nature, single cells of algae can grow to huge sizes. Early testing, the scientists say, have shown a significant improvement on traditional batteries.

"In nature, a great number of microorganisms, like diatoms, can assemble biominerals into intricate hierarchical three-dimensional architectures with great structural control," said Xi Li, who heads up the research group that made the discovery.

Xi Li has, together with his team, looked into how the algae form, and then tried to copy the process to create small carbon spheres which would be the battery’s anode. When compared to normal lithium-ion cells, the new batteries showed high reversible capacity, good cycling stability and high-rate performance.

"The carbon spheres can only be prepared on a laboratory scale, however, we are optimizing the synthetic conditions to scale up fabrication," said Li. "We envisage that batteries composed of these anode materials could be charged faster than those fabricated using conventional carbon materials."

As smartphones become increasingly more complex, thinner and with bigger screens, battery life remains the biggest problem they’re facing.

The team's research has been published in the journal Chemistry of Materials.