Battery technology research at Stanford
As battery technology has advanced, the quality and quantity of promising innovations are keeping Stanford researchers excited and busy.
Whether charging a phone or powering the TV remote, most people are well-acquainted with batteries. But diving deeper into the science of batteries reveals a wealth of surprising ideas and innovations. Although they’ve been a familiar technology for decades, batteries are set to be an important technology of the future.
Inside all batteries are electrochemical cells that store chemical energy with the potential to be converted into electrical energy. Most batteries have a positively charged side (the anode) and a negatively charged side (the cathode). When the electrons flow from the anode to the cathode through a circuit, the battery can power other electrical elements added to the system, like lightbulbs. This simple structure opens up opportunities for probing and fine-tuning across many disciplines, and Stanford University researchers are doing just that.
As they work to solve the mysteries of battery degradation, reveal the true environmental toll of battery production and disposal, and improve the performance of next-generation batteries, battery researchers are hoping their advances can change the world – and our daily lives – for the better.
Have you ever had an old computer or smartphone that needs to be charged frequently? This may have to do with the device’s declining battery performance. A battery, like many things, ages and loses energy capacity.
A major focus in battery research – and a cornerstone for Stanford researchers – is improving current batteries based on a better understanding of why they fail. Whether it be the degradation of rechargeable batteries or identifying how electrodes age, some of the most prominent obstacles in this field could lead to noteworthy advances in performance.
A battery’s environmental impact
Big or small, batteries can lead to serious consequences for people and nature. From the mining of raw materials to manufacturing to disposal and recycling, there is much work to be done to reduce the environmental impact of batteries.
At the same time, one of the greatest promises of batteries is that they could spark long-term energy independence and a more sustainable future.
Next generation batteries
Researchers today are generating a flurry of new ideas to improve the design and structure of battery technology. These ideas can come from simple questions: How are batteries created? What can make them more successful? What can one do with a battery?
And they can lead to inventive answers: Battery testing that uses artificial intelligence; reengineering “dead weight” in lithium-ion batteries to make them safer; wirelessly charging a car as it drives.
With all the various technologies that batteries influence, building a better battery could help make current and future machines safer, smarter, and more productive.