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I am not a chemist, nor do I know anything about chemistry. What I am interested in are batteries. I don't really care about the whole "Charge in minutes, last for days" types of batteries (the famously hyped graphene battery) But is it possible to have a battery that will never degrade and always keep its performance without upkeep/maintenance?

I just didn't know if there were some types of laws in chemistry that prevents this from happening. I would ask in electrical engineering but this sounds to me more of a chemistry question.

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    $\begingroup$ "Nothing is static. Even the Mona Lisa is falling apart." $\endgroup$ – andselisk Feb 26 at 7:08
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    $\begingroup$ There is not a big principle. But this would require all materials to be in their most stable state and this is not possible during operation. Moreover in real batteries one can have deformation, leakage, ecc. But in theory a battery is not required to degrade by its working principle. $\endgroup$ – Alchimista Feb 26 at 7:56
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But is it possible to have a battery that will never degrade and always keep its performance without upkeep/maintenance?

Well, consider the dry pile powering the Oxford Electric Bell, which has been running since 1840. However, that is an example of a nonrechargeable pile.

The question is, can a rechargeable battery be designed that retains it's charging/discharging current profile, reflecting a conserved structural integrity, during an unlimited number of cycles?

While in practice there are many reasons this is difficult to do (loss of electrolyte, occurrence of irreversible passivating reactions, etc) in principle there seems to be no reason why this should not be the case, at least over time on the order of a human lifetime. We manufacture many things which last an awful long time, and batteries would last even longer if designed or treated in an exceptional way, shielded from the environment and charged/discharged in a highly regulated manner. Some battery designs such as thin film lithium-ion allow an exceptional amount of cycling.

I just didn't know if there were some types of laws in chemistry that prevents this from happening.

The second law of thermodynamics places limits on what you can expect to achieve given the constraints of a particular choice of battery chemistry. This reveals itself for instance in Peukert's law, particularly applicable to lead-acid batteries operating at constant temperature, which says that the capacity of a battery is restricted by its discharge rate. Discharging quickly reduces the total work you can do with the battery.

The second law however does not say we cannot use work to recharge a battery to the same original state a very large number of times. But it does make it very hard! It begs the question, "is such a battery useful?" Probably not, except theoretically. The design and operation of a battery involves tradeoffs between charge density, discharge and recharging rate, and preservation of structural integrity during charging/discharging cycles.

By the way, you could generalize the question to include other portable high-capacity sources of electrical power. Think of probes that are sent into outer space and continue to operate after, well, a long time. Or consider the quantum battery.

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But is it possible to have a battery that will never degrade and always keep its performance without upkeep/maintenance

Nothing is permanent but change. As stated above, there is a battery which is almost working for more than 100 years at Oxford; it is a Zamboni pile. I was looking for the original work for some time and it turned out to be in Italian. Zamboni G., 1812, Della pila elettrica a secco. Dissertazione, Dionigio Ramanzini, Verona

It is working for ages because it draws very very tiny amount of current. The moment you start drawing a current from anybattery, chemical changes will happen which will finally lead to thermodynamically favorable state of all elements in the battery. For example, if you have a copper zinc battery, Nature would like to keep the zinc in Zn2+ state and copper as metallic Cu. In short, no chemical battery can last forever.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nothing is permanent but change, at least until entropic heat death of the universe, assuming that theory is correct. - Some guy reading this. $\endgroup$ – SendersReagent Feb 27 at 15:47

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