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2017-04-10

A natural structure could boost the performance of all kinds of tech.



There have been many, many discoveries that promise longer battery life, but one of the latest is rare in taking its inspiration from one of the most common structures in nature: the leaf vein. Scientists have crafted a porous material that mimics the highly optimized flow of nutrients in plant leaves. The team used an evaporation-based process to arrange zinc oxide nanoparticles into networks with pores of various sizes that behave like you'd expect in a leaf, maximizing the transfer of material while minimizing the necessary energy.
In lithium battery electrodes, the leaf-like technique not only improved the charging and discharging processes that affect battery life, but reduced the stress on the electrodes themselves. Your battery would both wring more out of a charge (up to 25 times more capacity), charge faster and have a longer usable lifespan. The same approach boosted the performance of a gas sensor and a photocatalysis process that broke down a dye using light.
As with most battery-related breakthroughs, there's one overriding question: how to translate this to a shipping product. Zinc oxide isn't an exotic substance, but you'd still need a way to mass-produce nanoparticle networks. The technology holds a lot of promise, but it could be a long while before your phone is a longevity champion