The Road to the Everlasting Battery 

Could an everlasting battery ever be possible? We will need to look to some history before answering that question. 

Since they were first developed and brought to the market in the early 1990s, the lithium-ion battery has revolutionized the energy industry. Batteries have been around for a very long time, and everyone is familiar with their traditional uses – TV remotes, children’s toys, flashlights, and so on. The lithium-ion cell vastly expanded all of those uses, not only by making possible rechargeable batteries that can undergo many more charge cycles but also by making possible the smart battery. This is a battery system that can report its level of depletion and alert the user when a charge is needed. Today, everyone who owns either a smartphone or a laptop will be aware of this technology, all made possible by the lithium-ion cell

Of course, the lithium-ion battery packs that powered electronic devices in the 1990s were hardly sufficient for more energy-intensive uses. But today, all we need do is look to the electric car to know that this is no longer the case. Batteries have been advancing at an incredible rate. 

What’s Next? 

So, this then begs the question – what’s next? To answer that, we need to talk in terms of timescales. As things stand, new lithium-ion battery technologies are being developed all the time. Or, in other words, that process of refinement is continuing apace and showing no signs of slowing down. Lithium-ion batteries can now power heavy machinery and tools and has made possible useful household products such as the USB rechargeable batteries developed by companies like Pale Blue Earth in Utah.

However, this technology does not have endless potential. Eventually, certain limitations of lithium-ion technology will ensure that it itself is eventually surpassed. But what comes after lithium-ion? Well, one of the more idealistic – and some would say fanciful – new technologies being discussed is the so-called everlasting battery. 

Everlasting Batteries 

First off, as the pedants out there will remind you, an everlasting battery is strictly impossible. As amazing as new battery technologies are it is not possible to break the second law of thermodynamics. A battery stores energy and releases it, and that energy will sadly always be finite. But that is not what is meant when people refer to everlasting batteries. Instead, we are talking here about rechargeable batteries that can be charged and discharged many more times than lithium-ion batteries – and we mean many more times. 

Nanowire Technology 

In fact, these so-called everlasting batteries – or a single cell thereof – can be charged and discharged up to 200,000 times. For perspective, this is far in advance of a single lithium-ion cell, which boasts only up to around a thousand discharge and recharge cycles. And when we consider that these batteries could potentially have inbuilt mechanisms that could draw energy from solar power or elsewhere, it’s easy to see how the name “everlasting battery” came about. These batteries would indeed appear to be everlasting. 

The technology that has been theoretically demonstrated as making this possible is so-called nano-wire technology. Nanowire technology refers to the use of a gold nanowire coated in a manganese dioxide shell, in turn encased in an electrolyte made of a special gel. Where previously 7,000 charge cycles without any detectable loss of capacity was the experimental upper limit in battery experiments, these batteries can handle 200,000. Furthermore, this is only the point that any loss of capacity is detected, not the point where the battery dies for good. 

So, while the term “everlasting” may be technically a misnomer, there is no denying that nanowire batteries get pretty damn close.