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(Pocket-lint) - Scientists have come up with an alternative type of lithium-ion battery that uses sand to achieve three times better performance than current efforts.

The battery is still lithium-ion like that found in your smartphone, but it uses sand instead of graphite in the anodes. This means it's not only three times better performing but it's also low cost, non toxic and environmentally friendly. What's not to like?

Now for the science part. Scientists, at the University of California Riverside, have been focused on nano silicon for a while but it's been degrading too quickly and is tough to produce in large quantities. By using sand it can be purified, powdered then ground with salt and magnesium before being heated to remove oxygen resulting in pure silicon. This is porous and three-dimensional which helps in performance and, potentially, the life-span of the batteries.

Imagine your next smartphone lasting three times as long. Or an electric car that can go three times as far as current models manage. This is very exciting research but unfortunately it's still in the lab stages right now. We hear a lot about battery breakthroughs but are yet to see any applications in the real world.

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Writing by Luke Edwards. Originally published on 10 July 2014.