Dozens of promising battery prototypes are out there, but for now they’re just vaporware. Fortunately, some of the biggest names in tech which includes Google and Apple are finally getting hands-on with the case.
Manufacturers accepted the fact of having a battery problem. Most of smartphone processors, memory, and sensors have evolved at an increasingly rapid pace, but just as we become more dependent on these hi-tech marvels, their dim-witted batteries go and mess up all our futuristic fun. In the end, a device’s advanced capabilities don’t matter if you can’t turn it on.
It seems like every other week, we hear about a new type of battery that’s invariably just around the corner and will bring our screens out of darkness. Most recently, it was the aluminum battery.
It sounds good and all, but damn it, I’ve been hurt before. Recently, we’ve been promised everything from MIT’s battery that supposedly charged in 20 seconds to flexible ones that are less than a millimeter thick.
Today, most of the rechargeable batteries in our tech – from smartphones and smartwatches to Tesla’s Model S – are powered by lithium-ion batteries, first introduced by Sony in 1991. While this technology is miles ahead of what we had a couple decades ago, it still leaves much to be desired.
For beginners, Li-ion batteries are slow to charge. The other major problem: These batteries don’t hold enough power for our daily needs even when they’re brand new, and they hold less and less as they age. Also, they sometimes spontaneously catch fire, which is bad.
Smartphone users need something better. Thousands of are scientists working to create a battery that solves all our problems. But the only issue, so far, is it is all vaporware.
On the other hand, some groups are trying to make Li-ion batteries improved. When lithium ions move through the battery, they cause tiny imperfections in the electrodes’ structure, which can lessen capacity and increase the risk of short circuits – which could produce fires. One solution: put Kevlar in between the layers of electrodes so shorts can’t form, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.
Then there are the researchers looking beyond lithium. Did you know that silicon can store up to 10x as much energy as lithium? Imagine your phone lasting for ten days on a single charge. But silicon swells to three times its original size when fully charged, so some scientists are working to divide the battery into cells similar to the seeds inside a pomegranate.
Perhaps Harvard is right and we’ll be using quinones, an organic compound found in rhubarb. Perhaps we’ll finally have a good use for all the sulfur waste we produce in oil refining and the University of Arizona’s sulfur batteries will become a reality.
The next generation of swallowable monitoring devices could be powered by Carnegie Mellon’s edible battery made from cuttlefish ink. There are more variations of plans for the future but none of them have proven superior yet.
So what’s the judgment? A lot of exciting ideas are out there, but most are stuck at the prototype phase and won’t benefit consumers for a while (if ever). But because battery life is such a huge problem for consumers, many of the leading tech companies have a vested interest in solving it, and they’re on the case.
Hopefully this intersection of independent and corporate research will create a perfect storm that will bring some of these breakthroughs to market. Until then, I’m afraid you’ll be keeping that USB portable charger in your jacket pocket, just in case.
Source: Outside Online