Ultra-Long Battery Life Is Coming … Eventually

One company aiming to improve lithium-ion batteries by up to 50 percent is Sila Nano, which was described by WIRED late last year. Sella Nano technology can contain nearly 24 times more lithium without the swelling, the company says. It currently works with BMW and Daimler on batteries for electric vehicles, as well as batteries for consumer electronics products.

In September 2021 Whoop revealed a new version of its battery-powered activity tracker with Sila Nano technology in it – said to match the previous tracker’s five-day battery life, but with a much smaller battery cell. The release of Whoop 4.0 was noteworthy because it contained the first Sila Nano battery shipped in a consumer product. But it’s also been marred by a series of customer complaints on Reddit about Whoop batteries not charging and delaying response times from customer service.

Srinivasan advises Enovix that they are also working on a silicone-based solution, but they take a slightly different approach. It makes what it calls “3D” silicon battery engineering, which involves stacking the electrodes rather than wrapping them inside the battery cell — a battery design technique that borrows from chip-making methods, which the company says makes efficient use of space inside the batteries.

Harold Rast, co-founder and CEO of Enovix, points to at least four challenges to widespread adoption that are inherent in silicon anode batteries. The first is the swelling that occurs with silicone. Another, manufacture it. (Sila Nano founder Gene Berdichevsky also told WIRED that fabrication of silicon nanoparticles is difficult to measure.) Another issue is energy efficiency, which varies from substance to substance in lithium-ion batteries. “The silicon anode itself tends to have a poor cycle life, which means that after a hundred cycles, perhaps, your battery has lost 20 percent of its capacity,” Rust says.

However, Rust remains optimistic about the possibility of a silicon anode. “We are pretty confident that what we say our battery can do, and will do, based on our testing,” he says. “And we expect to be in products this year that prove that.”

I asked WIRED HyperX, the maker of the 300-hour headphones, if the company is using silicon anode technology in its upcoming product. “We don’t have access to that level of design detail,” said company spokesperson, Gurpreet Bhoot, and confirmed that the new headphones will be the first gaming headset on the market to offer up to 300 hours of battery life on a single charge. Later, after further inquiries, the spokesperson said that HyperX designs are proprietary. For now, HyperX may reduce additional battery life the old-fashioned way: by designing for larger batteries, building with highly efficient processors, or using certain methods to reduce power consumption when headphones are not in use.

And it’s not a file bad A way to improve battery life. Srinivasan notes that there is a “parallel” to all of these advances in battery technology, which is that electronics are getting more efficient as entrepreneurs bent on maximizing battery life.

“I’m thinking of the Apple M1 chip, which is obviously Apple’s own, but the idea is that the techs reduce the load on the batteries,” says Srinivasan, “while there’s this synchronous power added to the batteries.” Perhaps the important thing we see here is the confluence of these two things.”

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