World's tiniest batteries will be smaller than salt grains

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, who are developing the next generation batteries said these tiny energy storage devices would be no bigger than a grain of sand.

These batteries could be used to power the electronics and mechanical components of tiny micro- to nanoscale devices, said the researchers.

Jane Chang, a UCLA professor of chemical engineering, is designing one component of these batteries: the electrolyte that allows charge to flow between electrodes.

"We're trying to achieve the same power densities, the same energy densities as traditional lithium ion batteries, but we need to make the footprint much smaller," Chang was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

To reach this goal, Chang is thinking in three dimensions. She and her collaborators are coating well-ordered micro-pillars or nano-wires -- fabricated to maximise the surface-to-volume ratio, and thus the potential energy density -- with electrolyte, the conductive material that allows current to flow in a battery.

Using atomic layer deposition -- a slow but precise process that allows layers of material only an atom thick to be sprayed on a surface -- she has successfully applied the solid electrolyte lithium aluminosilicate to these nanomaterials.

The research is still in its early stages: other components of these 3-D microbatteries, such as the electrodes, have also been developed, but they have yet to be assembled and integrated to make a functioning battery.

Chang presented her work at the AVS 57th International Symposium and Exhibition held recently in at the Albuquerque Convention Centre in New Mexico.

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