Researchers at Rice University and the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium, have devised a way to transform waste silicon into flexible components used in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Silicon absorbs 10 times more lithium than copper, which is commonly used in batteries, but since silicon expands and contracts during the charge/discharge cycle, it breaks down quite easily.
To solve the problem the researchers made arrayed nanowires encased in electrically conducting copper and ion-conducting polymer electrolyte into an anode. The material gives the nanowires the space to expand and contract, thereby prolonging their usefulness. The research team believes that transforming waste into batteries should be a scalable process and the devices could lead towards a new generation of flexible, efficient and affordable batteries that can be designed in any shape.
The result of the research would mean that waste silicon wafers of any shape and size can be recycled and reused to make portable and highly efficient batteries. Lithium batteries are commonly found in almost all portable electronic devices and electric cars. Since one of the most expensive components of an electric car is the battery pack, these affordable batteries could even reduce the cost of EVs making them attractive enough for global adoption.