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Engineers create promise for the future with rechargeable calcium-based battery technology that can withstand 700 charge cycles — here's how it works

"They plan to continue their work to see if it can be improved."

"They plan to continue their work to see if it can be improved."

Photo Credit: iStock

A team of two dozen Chinese scientists has identified calcium as a potential breakthrough battery material to help power wearable electronic devices, at least as a starting point. 

In fact, the method by which smartwatches, fitness devices, and similar tech can be powered by the invention has been established.

"We show the proposed [calcium-oxygen] battery is stable in air and can be made into flexible fibers that are weaved into textile batteries for next-generation wearable systems," the researchers wrote in a summary published by the journal Nature.  

The report also noted that testing held up to 700 charge cycles at room temperature. 

At issue is the commonly used lithium, an effective material for battery chemistry, used to power most electric vehicles and other technology. However, it requires costly, extensive mining and lots of water to gather and process. The material is also expensive, subject to foreign markets. 

As a result, experts at labs around the world are trying to find an alternative to it and other costly metals. Interesting materials already being developed by Northvolt, Sila, and others include sodium, sulfur, tea leaves, and silicon — all mostly geared to improve EV power packs. 

The calcium-oxygen innovation, developed by scientists from multiple institutions, targets smaller devices. 

TechXplore reported that calcium is 2,500 times more abundant than lithium. The experts overcame hurdles from prior research by developing an electrolyte suitable for calcium-oxygen chemistry. Electrolyte is the substance in a battery in which ions move back and forth during the charge-discharge process. 

Since the battery can be "incorporated" into flexible fibers — as TechXplore described it —  there's a clear vision for putting the innovation to work. And it's not the only concept in wearable power.

Scientists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology invented a rubber-like solar panel made from organic materials that could one day power the devices we carry on our bodies. 

If successful, these innovations could result in lower-cost electronics. The calcium-oxygen battery, for example, should be cheaper to make since it uses more common materials. Better battery and charging tech also provides improved efficiency, less power consumption, and less air pollution — all positive results that are realized by smarter energy use.  

And while their initial results are promising, the researchers acknowledged that the calcium-based power pack isn't yet ready for market. 

"They plan to continue their work to see if it can be improved," TechXplore's Bob Yirka wrote.

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