By creating an extremely thin layer of an unusually electron-hungry form of iron, chemists have made a prototype rechargeable battery electrode that may lead to improved metal hydride batteries

Many of the rechargeable batteries that power cell phones, laptop computers, medical implants, and hybrid cars contain some of the same electrode technology that was used in Thomas Edison’s day.

Now, chemists have come up with a modern alternative that could potentially multiply the capacity of such batteries. A battery typically consists of two electrodes—a positive cathode and a negative anode—immersed in a substance through which charged atoms, or ions, can flow.

The new technology holds promise for replacing the energy-limiting nickel-based cathode in nickel-metal hydride batteries, says chemist Stuart Licht of the University of Massachusetts in Boston…

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