A fortuitous finding in a Canadian laboratory might help increase the life of laptop, phone, and electric vehicle batteries.
According to Dalhousie University in Halifax experts, ubiquitous adhesive tape in batteries may be the cause of many gadgets losing part of their power while turned off or not in use, a process known as self-discharge.
“In our laboratory, we undertake many fairly difficult experiments to enhance batteries, but this time we discovered something quite basic,” Michael Metzger, an assistant professor in the physics and atmospheric science department at Dalhousie University, stated in a news release. “In commercial battery cells, there is tape—like Scotch tape—that keeps the electrodes together, and this tape decomposes chemically, creating a compound that leads to the breakdown.”
Metzger also thinks the remedy is simple: replace the polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic film frequently used inside batteries with something more robust and stable.
“It’s an economically meaningful finding,” said Metzger. “It’s a minor detail, but it can significantly improve battery cells.”
Metzger and his colleagues have been investigating why lithium-ion battery cells in idle gadgets tend to lose part of their power and self-discharge, a problem that has long irritated both users and manufacturers.
“Every lithium-ion cell manufacturer in the world wants to make self-discharge as modest as possible,” Metzger said in a joint statement with graduate student Anu Adamson. “Every battery has a tiny rate of self-discharge that gradually empties the battery. This is quite inconvenient.
The researchers claim that their study has piqued the interest of “several of the world’s leading computer hardware businesses and electric car manufacturers,” who are anxious to minimize self-discharge and increase battery performance.