Sand-based Batteries to Power Your Castle

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A woman’s home is her castle. But that castle can get pretty expensive to power, if the batteries that energize all of the electronic gadgets in the house and in the driveway are made from lithium-ion. Not only are they costly, but they don’t last forever and needs to be replaced.

But researchers found if instead of using the conventional graphite typically used in lithium-ion batteries, they used silicon dioxide, or quartz — a primary component in sand — the performance improved threefold.

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“This is the holy grail — a low cost, non-toxic, environmentally friendly way to produce high performance lithium ion battery anodes,” graduate student Zachary Favors of University of California, Riverside, said in a press release. Favors developed the new batteries along with engineering professors Cengiz Ozkan and Mihri Ozkan.

Favors found that sand from the Cedar Creek Reservoir, east of Dallas has a high percentage of quartz. He processed it to make pure silicon, which has a porous, sponge-like consistency. That porosity increases the energy density and is key to the improved performance.

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That could lead to smartphone and electric car batteries that last three times longer than conventional ones.

At the moment, the research team is perfecting their technique and working to produce larger quantities of the pure silicon.

The findings were published July 8 in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

Credit: Mark M. Lawrence/CORBIS

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