Sink your toes into this: Beach sand can be used to make lithium-ion batteries that last three times longer than current models, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“This is the holy grail: a low-cost, non-toxic, environmentally friendly way to produce high performance lithium-ion battery anodes,” said Zachary Favors, a graduate student at UC Riverside, in a statement.
The idea came to Favors when he was sitting on the beach after surfing, and realized the material was made up of a high percentage of quartz, or silicon dioxide. Typically the negative side, or anode, of lithium-ion batteries are made with graphite. Silicon has been eyed as a replacement material, since it can store about 10 times more energy–only it’s difficult to produce in large quantities and degrades quickly. But perhaps the silicon in sand could provide a cheap, abundant source of silicon.
After finding a reservoir of sand with an even higher fraction of quartz, in Texas, Favors processed it in the lab, as described by Gizmag:
The researchers have filed patents for the technology, and used it to produce a coin-sized lithium ion battery. The technology would allow phones to last for about three days on one charge, as opposed to the current average of about one day per charge, according to the business newspaper Mint. Let’s hope this technology turns out to be as exciting as it sounds.