The search for a better battery is leaving no stone unturned, or in this case, no grain of sand. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have synthesized a nano-silicon material from common beach sand, reports Gizmag.
While current lithium-ion batteries tend to rely on graphite anodes, researchers are hunting for an even better replacement, with nanoscale silicon representing some of the the greatest theoretical potential. Zachary Favor, a graduate student at UC Riverside, came up with the idea to use beach sand after noticing that much of it was made up of quartz. He milled high-quartz sand from Cedar Creek Reservoir in Texas down to a nanoscale and then purified it, heating it up to 900 °C and refining it to a texture similar to powdered sugar.
Then he ground in salt and magnesium, heating the mixture once more, creating pure silicon with a prous 3D structure that could triple the battery life of current lithium-ion batteries. That means charging a cellphone once every three days, instead of once a day. Testing is currently at the watch-battery level, though Zachary hopes to scale the batttery up to cellphone size soon.
For electric vehicles, it could easily translate to double or triple the range from cars like the Nissan LEAF without much bigger battery packs…and all from Texas beach sand.