What are Silicon batteries?

Chinese tech giants have announced a new Silicon oxide (or Silicon oxygen) battery for their latest flagship Mi 11 line up. This has generated a huge buzz in the smartphone world with tech experts and smartphone enthusiasts all gearing up to see what all the fuss is about. Amidst this buzz, a lot of us may be wondering, what are silicon batteries?

Lithium ion batteries were adopted by Sony almost 3 decades ago and went on to dominate the market for a long time. Recently however, it has had to grudgingly share the spotlight with Lithium Polymer batteries. These two batteries are the foremost battery technologies being used in the market today.


Read: Lithium ion vs Lithium polymer batteries


The way Lithium batteries work is rather straight forward. The cathode (positive electrode) is packed full of lithium ions. When current is applied to the battery, The lithium ions lose electrons. These electrons travel through the phone to the anode where they are stored. When the charge current is taken away, these electrons flow back to the cathode, powering the phone along the way.

The cathode of most lithium batteries are made up of Lithium Maganese di-Oxide (LMNO), Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo) or Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LiCoO) materials. Zinc or Carbon (Graphite) are the preferred metals for the anode.


Read: How Smartphone Batteries work


In Silicon oxide batteries, the anode is made up of a silicon based material instead of carbon (graphite). That’s it. Silicon oxide batteries are essentially lithium batteries with a silicon oxide anode.

The benefits of replacing carbon with silicon are:

Higher capacity:

Silicon can accept and accommodate more electrons than carbon. Carbon graphite can only store 372mAh per gram while pure silicon can store up to 4200mAh/g. In the near future, we start seeing battery capacities in excess of 6000mAh on smartphones.

Weight:

Since silicon batteries can contain more current per gram, this will lead to much smaller batteries that weigh less. Overall, this will reduce the weight of phones as well.

Temperature:

Whilst Lithium batteries have an effective temperature range of between 0 to 40 degrees Celsius, Silicon based batteries can work in more extreme temperatures making them less susceptible to battery degradation due to environmental conditions.

Faster charging:

As a result of their increased heat resistance, silicon batteries can be subjected to even faster charging without the fear of the battery overheating and exploding.


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