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Charge It Up

Posted On: November 3, 2010
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Laptops, cell phones, cameras, and power tools are just some of the battery powered products we rely on everyday for work or play. Keeping all of our gadgets fully juiced has become a daily routine and for some a daily grind. It’s an easy leap to understanding why a battery that’s lighter and lasts longer is a game changer in new product introduction. And now not just for consumer electronics but for cars, boats and large machinery.

Battery tech is certainly a make or break feature for a new product and but quickly becoming a focus of establishing global leadership—economic power, reduced dependency on oil, job creation, and environmentally based solutions.  The race for faster, lighter, more powerful batteries has jumped to a global warp speed contest.
 
Lithium-ion batteries will be used to run hybrid and electric cars for the next decade but the current tech has limits keeping the cars tied closer to home, out of reach financially for many, and there is still the problem of overheating causing serious problems --- bursting into flames. According to some whoever develops the next generation of battery will determine a country’s economy for the next few decades

In Foreign Policy Steve Levine reports “The discovery of the next key breakthroughs in the field could mean not just a fortune for a handful of companies, but the remaking of whole economies -- and the rebalancing of geopolitical power that typically accompanies such shifts. A Chinese triumph could speed the country's global advance; an American one could give U.S. dominance a new lease on life.”

The race to develop the next gen battery is producing some fascinating developments. The Economist
reported recently that Corvus Energy is developing monster sized batteries powerful enough to power tugboats, dock side cranes and super-yachts, reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions. While most batteries are “made from lithium iron phosphate Corvus, uses lithium nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) because it provides a greater energy density.” Their batteries are more expensive but make up for the cost with the ability to withstand harsh weather and living a longer life.

Graphene, the substance developed by Noble winners Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, is one area of focus for better batteries. Tech News Daily reports on graphene as “the strongest material ever discovered, yet flexible like rubber. It conducts electricity better than silicon, and resists heat better than diamond. With conductivity 100 times greater than silicon and the ability to release virtually no heat, graphene could change the electronics industry,”

Panoramix View:
The battery race does have an if-you-build-a-better-mousetrap quality to it. During a global recession a new technology with potential deficit reducing qualities is a big driver. The other driver is conservation. Conservation of space with smaller products as urbanization changes our cities and technology that extends the electrical charge conserving energy. And another consideration, while the new tech is exciting all these batteries still need to be powered up—electricity needs to come from somewhere.

By Mary Meehan


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