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MIT Secretly Built Mega-Efficient Nano Batteries

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the used-to-power-the-black-helicopter dept.

Power 195

mattnyc99 writes "There was plenty of chatter last week about an MIT announcement that researcher Angela Belcher had developed a way to create virus-based nanoscale batteries to power mini gadgets of the future. In a fascinating followup at Popular Mechanics, Belcher now says that her unpublished work includes full-scale models of the batteries themselves, and that they could power everything from cars and laptops to medical devices and wearable armor. Quoting: 'We haven't ruled out cars. That's a lot of amplification. But right now the thing is trying to make the best material possible, and if we get a really great material, then we have to think about how do you scale it.'"

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Make product (0, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790411)

Bring product to market.

Stop blabbering on and do it already.

Re:Make product (3, Informative)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790605)

lemme explain why they haven't yet in case you missed how they phrased it. They built a "model" of the battery. They still haven't nailed down how to make the inside part work or how to build a real one. I could take out my legos and build a car battery sized box and say it's a "model" of what a magic battery would look like and say I haven't quite figured out how to make it generate electricity. This isn't news, this is like someone drawing a picture of a flying car and having no idea how to build it or make it fly but releasing a press release anyway.

Re:Make product (4, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790679)

Come on. It's not THAT bad. They did do this in secret.

Well, until they went to the press...

Re:Make product (5, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790787)

No.

For one, your lego battery wouldn't even work in theory. An actual scientific model is supposed to represent what would work as well as possible.

For two, they aren't just using a model. They've actual built components of this.

"
A much-buzzed-about paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month details the team's success in creating two of the three parts of a working battery--the positively charged anode and the electrolyte. But team leader Angela Belcher told PM Wednesday that the team has been seriously working on cathode technology for the past year, creating several complete prototypes. "

"
The M13 viruses used by the team can't reproduce by themselves and are only capable of infecting bacteria. At just 880 nanometers long--500 times smaller than a grain of salt--the bugs allow researchers to work at room temperatures and pressures with molecular precision, using and wasting fewer hazardous materials in the process. Now that they've demonstrated the construction of such tiny electronic components is possible, the challenge facing researchers is how to make them practical."

As in the virus "inside part" is actually done. They've also got the anode construction done. They're working on the cathode.

This is a practical engineering project at this point. This is news. Who knows if it will end up "practical", but nevertheless it is real whether you rtfa or not.

Re:Make product (3, Funny)

Bohnanza (523456) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792757)

your lego battery wouldn't even work in theory.

I thought it was possible to make ANYTHING out of lego.

Re:Make product (1)

AmaDaden (794446) | more than 5 years ago | (#24793545)

It is. It's just not possible for ANYONE to make anything. Some people just don't have the lego skills it takes.

Re:Make product (3, Informative)

eltardo (160932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790797)

The last 6 or 7 paragraphs explain what progress they've made on these things. Seems to be a bit farther along than a "model". So far they've got 2 out of their 3 bits created already. It'll be nice to see an update on this when they get a bit further along, though.

Re:Make product (-1, Troll)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790933)

I read most of the article and from what I read, I'll assume it says "well, we built the structures but now we just have to fill them with maaaaaaaagic or something equally amazing that will generate electricity cuz the viri we have don't work"

Re:Make product (-1, Flamebait)

findingmaemo (1350519) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791157)

we could try helping with this as a group rather than dismissing this as magic. but hell, if you want magic, I've got some in my pants if you want to try that. Maybe on your chin?

For the last fucking time... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24791863)

It's VIRUSES, not virii, or viri, or any other variation of that word!

Re:For the last fucking time... (4, Funny)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792165)

Re:For the last fucking time...

Oh, good, that means you're gonna shut up about it now?

Obligatories (5, Funny)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | more than 5 years ago | (#24793035)

1) What could possibly go wrong?

2) Grow virus, Stir in cobalt oxide and gold, Add electrolyte, Invent cathode, ..., PROFIT!

3) I for one welcome our new secretly developed, Army-funded, virus-based, electricity producing overlords.

4) But will it run Natalie Portman's vibrator?

Re:Obligatories (4, Funny)

orasio (188021) | more than 5 years ago | (#24793543)

4) But will it run Natalie Portman's vibrator?

Everyone knows that Natalie Portman's vibrator runs on midiclorians!

Re:Make product (-1)

monxrtr (1105563) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791287)

Let me make a cartoon episode about it. MIT sucks. Hooray for the now Limp Math Flag! Oh sure, they can parrot formulas. Math has for the first time ever been utterly defeated by, any other disciplinary field whatsoever failed for God knows how many Years, and it just so happens to be economics, "epistemology". Math *proved* False. Can't handle the demonstration ... Some people are just slower than others ...

"Magic Battery! Magic Battery! Magic Battery! ..."

Fuck the generation part. That's always the sucky. Except by certain bullshit parts not always necessarily excluded. And. And I don't Know. Except by perhaps certain old fashioned rules, like GP, or whomever the 'F' that shit is, is, I'm replying to, synthetically bitch-slapping Leonardo da Vinci, and us /cheering.

Abuse of "models" continues ... too much a tragic ... Princess Diana ... formulaesque equation should be set aside for certain procedural protocallZ. :P Not like we haven't been waiting for ... THE ONE ... THE BEAUTIFUL ... THE SUCKY SUCKY ... "MODEL" ... with no artificial variables, with no environmentally damaging outputs, with nothing whatsoever butt empty religious platitudes graffiti traps.

Except by certain Leonardo da Vinci blue print plans screen savers ... bought by Mr. Fifth Round Draft Pick, Doctorrrr ..... Richard GAtesssssssssssssssssss .....

Look forward to seeing you as "Jed" in re-runs of The Beverly-Hillbillies. Don't worry. You can read all about it again in the academic Journal of Models that Proved to Be Less Hotter Than They First Were First Believed To Appear. :P

Re:Make product (1)

monxrtr (1105563) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791313)

Whoops. Not yahoo fantasy league. My apologies. Wrong website.

Re:Make product (2, Interesting)

Candid88 (1292486) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791483)

"They built a "model" of the battery. They still haven't nailed down how to make the inside part work or how to build a real one. I could take out my legos and build a car battery sized box and say it's a "model" of what a magic battery would look like and say I haven't quite figured out how to make it generate electricity."

This shows why analogies can be so bad. The two situations - despite sounding convincingly similar - are extremely different, as other people have pointed out.

Mind you, it's not quite as bad as an anology I heard on the TV news the other day, that almost had me throwing something at it, the analogy was so misleading.

Re:Make product (1)

quantumplacet (1195335) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792711)

Like letting the air out of a balloon!

Re:Make product (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790725)

Bring product to market.

Stop blabbering on and do it already.

Think about what you're saying here.
Is MIT, a university, going to bring this technology to market?

We always hear about research because the people doing it need to show it off so that they can find business & manufacturing partners to bring it to market. Quitely shopping it around isn't the way its done.

Re:Make product (5, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790805)

Heh, that's exactly how it's done. You recognize that the research has commercial application, ask for spin-off rights, found a startup company, build a prototype, then get investors. The result is a whole lot of secrecy, and, eventually, an actual product.

On the other hand, if all you're trying to do is create buzz and get more government grant money, you make press releases.

Re:Make product (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790875)

And with what money will you build that prototype and finance that company?

Re:Make product (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790935)

Angel investment. Friends and family investment. Like every other startup.

Seriously, if you don't know this stuff then why are you being so indignant?

Re:Make product (1, Insightful)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791937)

Friends & family for financing a material science startup? Your family must be a lot richer than mine.

As for angel investors, how do you suppose they hear about your invention & plans?

And yeah, I have been through the whole startup thing. Seems like you are the one who is clueless.

Re:Make product (2, Insightful)

afxgrin (208686) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792069)

The approach they're taking makes complete sense.

If they have a way of significantly improving batteries, they're holding the key to enabling a lot of technologies that have been waiting on better batteries....

I think it's fair that Angela Belcher has us by the balls...

Re:Make product (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24793037)

no you just want her to hold you by your balls

Re:Make product (0)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 5 years ago | (#24793245)

I think it's fair that Angela Belcher has us by the balls...

Could be worse, at least she's not fugly. [mit.edu]

Re:Make product (5, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791047)

We also hear about research because this is Slashdot: News for Nerds. If you only want to hear about ready-to-use products, go to Best Buy.

Re:Make product (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791741)

Shouldn't it be also counted as news if a record-breaking product (in some way) has just been made available to the public too? I hardly ever see those kind of stories on slashdot.

Re:Make product (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792735)

That's because they come out every month. Wouldn't be news unless managed another half again on Moore's law.

Re:Make product (3, Funny)

quantumplacet (1195335) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792747)

I see them all the time, and generally they're followed by a few dozen posts complaining about slashvertisements....

Re:Make product (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24792975)

Bring product to market.

Stop blabbering on and do it already.

Think about what you're saying here. Is MIT, a university, going to bring this technology to market?

We always hear about research because the people doing it need to show it off so that they can find business & manufacturing partners to bring it to market. Quitely shopping it around isn't the way its done.

Um, e-Ink, anyone?

Re:Make product (4, Funny)

Cyberia (70947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790997)

What's next? Adware Batteries? Free power, only you get to watch adds on your portable tv, or listen to ads on your radio... oh wait... never mind...

WAIT!... Let's call Eveready and Duracell say we are consultants from Symantec, Mcafee or Sophos and we are here to create a strategy to help them win in this market space. A virus based battery... let's push out a pattern for that one boys...

PROFIT!

Re:Make product (3, Funny)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792315)

Paraphrasing the original:

"Make a product or it never happened"

Pfff (1, Funny)

SRA8 (859587) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790425)

And Obama thinks it will take 10 whole years!

Efficiency? (4, Informative)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790455)

I see nothing in those articles about these batteries being "mega efficient", as the title of this Slashdot post screams. The novelty seems to be the fact that they're grown using viruses and can be applied in thin films.

Re:Efficiency? (3, Informative)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790487)

It doesn't say anything about any secrecy either, and they haven't actually built anything yet, except full scale models (whatever that means). I guess the only accurate part of the title is that it's something to do with MIT and batteries.

Re:Efficiency? (4, Insightful)

dafrazzman (1246706) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790511)

When you discover something, typical procedure is to make a paper on it. Instead, MIT went ahead and worked on development before announcing the fundamental concept discovered. Maybe not "secret," but highly unusual.

Re:Efficiency? (1, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790869)

Bahahaha.. ya kidding right? Maybe that's what is "usual" in academia but everyone else in the world gets down to the business of tinkering and seeing what the discovery is worth long before they even think about telling the world, let alone writing a non-opaque scientific paper about it.

Re:Efficiency? (5, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791059)

Uh, they did? The article says they wrote a paper about their anodes and electrolytes (I expect the electrolyte isn't such a big deal).

So they made some viruses that are supposed to make little wires. Then they used the viruses to make some little wires. Then they wrote a paper. Then they worked on some more viruses to make some other wires that could be used as the other necessary component of a battery. And they're writing another paper.

That really sounds like pretty much how it's supposed to happen.

Re:Efficiency? (2, Funny)

Gryphoenix (1052272) | more than 5 years ago | (#24793017)

Brawndo - the Thirst Mutilator - it's got electrolytes!

Re:Efficiency? (1)

Lostlander (1219708) | more than 5 years ago | (#24793451)

Scariest documentary ever.

Re:Efficiency? (5, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790619)

and they haven't actually built anything yet, except full scale models (whatever that means).

Creating 1:1 scale battery models is one of my hobbies. I find that tubes from toilet paper rolls work well as a base for models of D cells. Large drinking straws are a good starting point for AAA cells. Old laundry detergent boxes are great when you want to move to more advanced projects like automobile batteries.

Re:Efficiency? (4, Funny)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791373)

Finally a good use for nanotubes: building full scale models of nano batteries!

Re:Efficiency? (3, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791411)

I've found a box of matches to be a perfect model for laptop batteries.

Not models. Prototypes. There's a difference. (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790815)

"A much-buzzed-about paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month details the team's success in creating two of the three parts of a working battery--the positively charged anode and the electrolyte. But team leader Angela Belcher told PM Wednesday that the team has been seriously working on cathode technology for the past year, creating several complete prototypes. "

"The cathode material has been a little more difficult, but we have several different candidates, and we have made full, working batteries."

They've actually built things, that work, though the 3rd component the cathode is still apparently a work in progress. The summary says "models", which of course means something specific to /.ers, but that isn't the reality reflected in the articles.

Re:Not models. Prototypes. There's a difference. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790909)

"Prototypes" mean something specific to us too.. and it isn't "2 out of 3 critical components, not even integrated yet".

Re:Not models. Prototypes. There's a difference. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24791151)

Re:Not models. Prototypes. There's a difference. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24791275)

That's Microsoft's definition of prototype.

Re:Not models. Prototypes. There's a difference. (3, Insightful)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791983)

There is just no pleasing some people. These guys have been consistently working away on a hard problem, making progress along the way, published their work, so others can run their own experiments, and worked towards a product.

Meanwhile, what exactly have you been doing?

Like somebody else said, if you only want final products, go to Best Buy.

Re:Efficiency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24792721)

In fact, I quite specifically remember reading about it in Scientific American about a year ago. That's a poorly kept secret.

Re:Efficiency? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24790563)

Yeah, it would be a miracle if they were even hepto-efficient. Mega-efficient is right out! The best we can hope for is deca-efficient.

Re:Efficiency? (-1, Troll)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790809)

You must be new here. A good title and summary from Slashdot? I don't expect it.

Re:Efficiency? (1, Insightful)

matt_martin (159394) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790811)

There is no mention that the batteries are even functional.
Just stated that they made "parts of batteries" : stacked some layers, patterened them, used a virus to help deposit another layer, stacked more layers and issued a press release! Phase 3, profit (from renewed grant).

Hard for the casual observer to see how this improves on the usual film deposition methods, other than not requiring vacuum chambers, pumps, etc.

And while we're at it, mega-efficient isn't very meaningful when describing batteries - high energy density would be a lot more appropriate if it were true.

But hey, its alt-energy, from MIT and this is Slashdot - rock on !

Re:Efficiency? (0, Offtopic)

Nymz (905908) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791255)

I see nothing in those articles about these batteries being "mega efficient", as the title of this Slashdot post screams.

Unlike your behavior, most people aren't expected to critically read articles. In journalism you have to know your agenda, and stick to it.

  • Global Warming (never say Solar Warming)
  • Electric cars (see Global Warming)
  • Mega-efficiency (mega-words get attention, because truth is often boring and harmful to agendas)

If a story doesn't cover your agenda, then you stretch it to fit like this story, but if you can't stretch it to fit, then you don't report it.

Re:Efficiency? (5, Insightful)

salec (791463) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791495)

I see nothing in those articles about these batteries being "mega efficient", as the title of this Slashdot post screams. The novelty seems to be the fact that they're grown using viruses and can be applied in thin films.

Oh, no, that is not complete story of what this bugs could do. Think about it for a moment:

1. those are big-molecule-sized particle batteries.
2. You can construct them in such a matter that their terminals can be accessed only trough specific shape of (molecular, e.g. an enzyme) connectors.
3. You can make each terminal incompatible with opposite polarity terminal, allowing for suspending those batteries in a liquid, or, if the batteries can bond with each other through (weak) hydrogen bonds, a large mass of them might already be in liquid form.

Now, what is that all together? An "electric fuel", something that might power electric cars, but refuel on pump stations in same time ICE cars refuel. Car would have nanobatteries' processing unit, which would allow parallel connection of great many such batteries, pumped from the "fresh" tank. Once discharged in processor, batteries would be would be pumped into "used" tank.

Bonus points for hypothetical clever battery design that would spoil terminals' shape if battery is empty as it would allow processor to be installed in "fresh" tank and just keep the tank stirred enough. Once processor squeezes out all the "juice", battery should fall off it, allowing connection with another, fresh battery to commence.

I have a virus (3, Funny)

able1234au (995975) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790499)

I'm not sick. Just recharging my battery.

Re:I have a virus (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790681)

I'm not sick. Just recharging my battery.

The bad news is, once you're feeling better, we have to plug you back into The Matrix

Re:I have a virus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24790993)

Now we know what is really up. MIT is trying to solve the human battery issues so often questioned from the Matrix. Which is no doubt why they mention that after they get this part done the next step would be to figure out how to scale it up. Human sized batteries perhaps? So which would run faster and further, the bully powered or nerd powered Tesla Roadster?

Re:I have a virus (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24791087)

Lame.

What could go wrong? (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790519)

... researchers genetically engineer viruses to attract individual molecules of materials they're interested in ... The M13 viruses used by the team can't reproduce by themselves and are only capable of infecting bacteria.

Good thing bacteria can't infect anything...

Of course, now I'll have to worry about my batteries getting a Staph infection:
"Doctor, I need some Vancomycin for my laptop."

Re:What could go wrong? (5, Funny)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790579)

This will be perfect for running my Vista laptop as it already runs on viruses!

Re:What could go wrong? (0, Troll)

findingmaemo (1350519) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791187)

Nice, but if Vista was powered by viruses, you could run the whole eastern seaboard off of just one laptop.

Re:What could go wrong? (5, Funny)

incognito84 (903401) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790747)

Biological viruses in the batteries and Vista on the hard drive... That cocktail can only mean... Good god man! What have you done?

Re:What could go wrong? (1)

tancque (925227) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790843)

you would be well to worry about any bacteria getting near your batteries. If the viral particles decide to infect en multiply on a convenient bacteria that strayed on your batteries you might get more voltage then you bargained for.....

Re:What could go wrong? (3, Interesting)

Ace905 (163071) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791423)

You make an interesting point about Bacteria infecting things ; Maybe an offshoot of this research could be a medical-process for removing heavy metals from the human body. A method of completely counteracting Lead or Mercury poisoning. I wants to eats Salmon all the time darnit! I just don't want the brain tumours that go with it.

I imagine though, that would involve creating a much more sophisticated virus that itself attracts the metals, rather than using the bacteria they've already created. Unless you could get it up your nose and leave it there so you can blow mercury snot out of your nose. That would be kind of cool, in a 'My snots toxic' kind of way.

Man.... i'm tired.

Re:What could go wrong? (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#24793009)

Not a problem; Push for nukes and AE, and the lead will go away. China now emits about 1/2 of the world's lead and America still emits about 1/3 (cleaner coal; some minor scrubbers). If these 2 countries move away from coal, you would see a major drop in lead in our fish within 5 years.

Uh, Popular Mechanics? Unpublished Work? (2, Insightful)

LM741N (258038) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790813)

Wasn't it Popular Mechanics that predicted in the 1970's that by the year 2000, robots would be doing all of the work, and we could all be sitting by the pool, sipping on Daiquiris? Unfortunately, they forgot about how people were going to get a paycheck. I can't believe even Slashdot would mention anything from Popular Mechanics.

Re:Uh, Popular Mechanics? Unpublished Work? (4, Funny)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790975)

Huh? - You must have missed the death of western manufacturing in the 80's-90's.

Robotic factories, robotic warehouses and Chinese peasants ARE doing all the work! The rest of us are sitting around in office blocks posting to slashdot.

Insensitive Clod! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24791097)

01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 01110011 00100000 01110000 01101111 01110011
01110100 00100000 01101111 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101100 01100001 01110011 01101000
01100100 01101111 01110100 00100000 01110100 01101111 01101111
EOF

Re:Insensitive Clod! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24791895)

They sure do, but you need to have your Binary->ASCII converter fixed.

Re:Uh, Popular Mechanics? Unpublished Work? (4, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791191)

Slashdot is a poor substitute for Daiquiris, but the combination is a good idea. Cheers!

Re:Uh, Popular Mechanics? Unpublished Work? (2, Funny)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792965)

You don't get Daiquiris where you work either, huh? Your job must suck as bad as mine. They want to stick us with kegs of Guiness here.

Correction. (2, Funny)

crhylove (205956) | more than 5 years ago | (#24793609)

YOU may be in an office block, but *I* am in my parent's basement, with the rest of /.

Re:Uh, Popular Mechanics? Unpublished Work? (2, Insightful)

UpUpDownDown (972439) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791301)

Isn't Popular Mechanics the rag where half-baked technologies go to die? Right after the part where they will revolutionize All Life As We Know It? And right before the part where The Idea is killed by an Evil Conspiracy?

They are usually late with the important news and way too early with stuff that will eventually crash and burn. Not that they can't build a raging headline and a totally misleading cover out of it.

I stopped going to Popular Mechanics for my cutting edge technology news when I was about nine years old. They are long on hype and short on details - not to mention short on discrimination in their editorial department.

Excuse me, but the nuclear battery in my flying car is running low. Gotta run...

Re:Uh, Popular Mechanics? Unpublished Work? (2, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791817)

Actually, I'm curious how this is supposed to work. Aside from people always finding something to do, I really can't see why we couldn't be sitting by the pool. I mean, obviously, work still needs to be done. But if we get more efficient at that (e.g. by building machines that then do the work with fewer human hours involved), we _should_, on average, have more free time for a given level of prosperity, right?

Re:Uh, Popular Mechanics? Unpublished Work? (2, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792123)

But if we get more efficient at that (e.g. by building machines that then do the work with fewer human hours involved), we _should_, on average, have more free time for a given level of prosperity, right?

      The Law of Diminishing Returns is universal. We can't ALL sit by the pool. Someone has to clean it.

      As you increase a "level of prosperity" the TYPE of work may change - from picking berries in a field 14 hours a day to analyzing power-point presentations in teleconferences over the internet 7 hours a day - but you still have to work. There can only be one or two really really rich guys per 100 population, it's a time-honored scale. You may be far "richer" than the berry picker, but only the really really rich guy gets to sit by the pool. And not even that (or he won't be rich for long - snooze and you lose).

      The pool is for weekends.

Re:Uh, Popular Mechanics? Unpublished Work? (3, Insightful)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 5 years ago | (#24793011)

But if we get more efficient at that (e.g. by building machines that then do the work with fewer human hours involved), we _should_, on average, have more free time for a given level of prosperity, right?

And you most certainly could RIGHT NOW. You would just have to scale back your standard of living to the time when humans were doing all the work. Back to a family of 4 in a 1000sq.ft. home, with no AC and a max of one car per family. Going to see a movie would be an event. Most people prefer their McMansion with constant entertainment. "Stuff" cost money, and the level of spending generally outpaces the increases in pay scales.

Re:Uh, Popular Mechanics? Unpublished Work? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24793205)

But if we get more efficient at that (e.g. by building machines that then do the work with fewer human hours involved), we _should_, on average, have more free time for a given level of prosperity, right?

And you most certainly could RIGHT NOW.

I do. I work two months a year. I don't own a car and my only hi-tech gadget is my PC. I've chosen to live more simply and I'm amazed at how little money I spend compared to when I was working full time. And I'm much happier. Spending the best years of your life in an office is bullshit.

Popular Mechanics. (0)

crhylove (205956) | more than 5 years ago | (#24793587)

I think Popular Mechanics has long been a joke to most real fans of actual science. Pretty pictures, light skimpy articles full of glib personal anecdotes, and the occasional government planted misinformation.

It's like US magazine, but for nerds. Sadly there are enough wanna be nerds out there who don't see it as a joke and actually buy the piece of crap.

Most of the media is a joke, and popular magazines (and certainly Popular Mechanics) are one of the primary farces that humanity passes off as "information".

I found their 9/11 debunking particularly egregious and lacking of any real science, but bringing that up is going to get me modded into oblivion.....

Electronic wearable armor? (0, Offtopic)

Dunge (922521) | more than 5 years ago | (#24790847)

What the hell is that?

The advantages aren't clear (3, Insightful)

Ace905 (163071) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791217)

It's obvious that weaving these batteries into fibre (for example) or just the fact that they can create such tiny batteries is hugely advantageous from an engineering perspective. Now clothes can be powered, etc.

What isn't clear is why would you want these batteries to power your car? I don't really see any discussion on whether these pack more power than a 50lb car battery would. From the description it sounds like they're just regular batteries which expire, but are tiny. So by my no-math-involved logic, 50lbs of these nano-batteries should pack about the same punch as a regular 50lb car battery.

Am I wrong about this? Do the infected bacteria constantly replenish the components of the battery making them more like a generator that runs on raw materials ? Because it doesn't look like that, it looks like they create the components, stop the process and put them together.

Very very cool, but it sounds like the same technology we've always had is the end product. Please tell me I'm wrong, I want this to be the mini nuclear generator powering our cars we were all promised in the 1950's.

"Can we stick it on the head of a pin? People love it when we do that"

Re:The advantages aren't clear (1)

salec (791463) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791531)

What isn't clear is why would you want these batteries to power your car? I don't really see any discussion on whether these pack more power than a 50lb car battery would. From the description it sounds like they're just regular batteries which expire, but are tiny. So by my no-math-involved logic, 50lbs of these nano-batteries should pack about the same punch as a regular 50lb car battery.

It may be easier to unload and load 50lb of small batteries then single big one, provided you don't have to manually disconnect and connect all the little ones. The difference is like between stopping for gas and going to the repair shop.

Re:The advantages aren't clear (1)

Fungus King (860489) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791571)

These are lithium cells fabricated in a fancy way. This sort of nanoscale construction of the electrode materials affords massive surface area so you get advantages like improved capacity, power, lifetime, etc.

As with all lithium cells these are suited to applications which benefit from high energy density and low power, i.e. laptops, mobile phones etc.

'Mega-efficient' is probably a bit misleading, don't get carried away thinking all of a sudden there's a new portable energy source with the potential to replace all existing batteries!

Re:The advantages aren't clear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24792151)

Building a regular battery requires copious amounts of toxic materials.

Building a virus battery requires some starter micro-organisms and copious amounts of agar.

As long as the power output is anything *close* to usable, this technology will easily find applications.

Scaling for growth. (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791261)

When scaling for growth, especially when talking about the automobile sector, shouldn't the larger concern at this point be disposal and/or recycling?

I'm not exactly running around hugging trees, but we ARE talking about billions of batteries here. Even with a 1:1 replacement ratio of current battery tech, demand will increase exponentially when you get the automotive markets ear.

Good example of better, yet not safer would be our pigtail light bulbs we're putting in everywhere.

Re:Scaling for growth. (1)

Ace905 (163071) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791511)

I don't really understand what you're getting at here ; you think "at this point" they should be concerned about how to recycle them - instead of concerned about whether or not they could even make one?

Are they supposed to stop the research and start working on a recycling method ? This sounds like something maybe you would slate for the future - like if or when you had a single working prototype.

What's with the pseudo-math, "Even with a 1:1 .... demand will increase exponentially" - exponentially from what? the first single one not yet created? Cuz from 1 to 2 _is_ exponential growth, but seriously. These articles don't even tell us if these batteries would _be_ better than a regular car battery (or what it would cost to produce one of these) -- so what can they do but keep the research and prototyping going?

From the sounds of the article, they've found a way to suck battery components out of raw materials. This could be the future of recycling our standard car batteries ; Creating structured, pure materials from raw partially reacted crap materials.

Re:Scaling for growth. (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792139)

I don't really understand what you're getting at here ; you think "at this point" they should be concerned about how to recycle them - instead of concerned about whether or not they could even make one?

Sorry, perhaps I should have made myself a bit more clear. We seem to go from prototype to development to on the shelves at Wal-Mart without thinking too highly of the aftermath. Yes, we are still in prototype, but looking at the history of batteries, we haven't exactly gotten worse at making them more efficient or finding more applications.

What's with the pseudo-math, "Even with a 1:1 .... demand will increase exponentially" - exponentially from what? the first single one not yet created?

Again, to clarify, my 1:1 was referring to this tech replacing ALL current battery tech. The exponential growth comes in when you come crashing into NEW markets (automotive) with ultra-efficient batteries. I'd say peoples propensities to at least look that much harder at fuel alternatives will increase, especially given the cost of oil today and where it will likely be 5-10 years from now.

Like I said before, not exactly a tree-hugger, but when you create tech that has the capability of finding entire new markets with HUGE growth potential (vendor cues the $$$$ signs), we sometimes fail to see or plan for the aftermath (recycling, landfill disposal issues, etc.). RoHS hasn't exactly cured our propensity to chuck that desktop/laptop carcass out any sooner because it's not the latest and greatest. It's only made tech sitting in landfills slightly less toxic.

The key word here is "unpublished" (3, Funny)

melted (227442) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791293)

Publish it, get peer reviews and THEN post on Slashdot if reviewers don't tear it apart completely.

Re:The key word here is "unpublished" (2, Insightful)

allawalla (1030240) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792261)

The key words are published earlier this month in PNAS. A working cathode prototype is the only unpublished news. Which isn't very exciting to someone that doesn't know anything about the mechanistic differences between an anode and a cathode anyway. Not compared to using bugs to build batteries.

Re:The key word here is "unpublished" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24792811)

What a pathetic attempt at karma whoring.

Shoot yourself for being such a piece of garbage.

well (1, Funny)

amnezick (1253408) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791295)

it's got electrolytes.

Another Engineering Idea (1)

Ace905 (163071) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791315)

I'm going to sound crazy here, but this is my question :

Instead of creating conventional batteries (which is what I *think* is happening here) on a nano-scale ; wouldn't it be better to make bacteria to be used in ongoing reactions ?

Create a battery we can feed sugar (or something) to continually separate or replenish the reacted electrolyte?

I know that's a whole stupid theoretical idea on its own, but it seems like they would be so close to doing this instead with the virii / bacteria they are using right now.

Comments? Flames?

Re:Another Engineering Idea (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791499)

Bacterial fuel cell. [google.com]

Re:Another Engineering Idea (1)

Fungus King (860489) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791513)

If you required an external fuel source (sugar as you suggest) then it wouldn't be a battery, it would be more like a fuel cell, wouldn't it?

Besides, the role of the virus is to bring about the formation of the structure of the active material (cobalt oxide in the case of the anode), there's no biochemical/bioelectrochemical process going on if that's what you're suggesting.

This is a fairly creative approach to nanoscale lithium batteries by the sound of it (having briefly skimmed the MIT announcement), I'd be quite interested to see how they develop the cathode now, I imagine that will prove to be an entirely different kettle of fish.

Humm i think i know how the world will end now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24791333)

Wow virus that generate electricity i wonder if that power is considered clean...

I am worried about what happens to the bacteria that get infected by these virus

Humm parasite eve? resident evil? All i know is nothing good will come of them being able to infect bacteria...

Nano models? (1)

Warg! The Orcs!! (957405) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791701)

Exactly how big IS a 'full-scale' model of a nano battery? Quite small I suspect and you would definitely require a steady hand. I look forward to the Airfix kit.

Ahh.. ahh... ahhh... (0)

Mark_in_Brazil (537925) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791705)

Ahhh.. Tchoooo! BZZZZZZT!

Ow! Dammit! Friggin electro-flu!

Mega-efficient isn't the only thing (1)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 5 years ago | (#24791945)

I just don't see the efficiency. But I do see a totally new way of thinking when it comes to battery packaging. Even if they don't better current state-of-the-art batteries in amps, this offers a bigger innovation:

Imagine your laptop's case being the battery (better packing). Or you car's undercarriage (better weight distribution). Or your cellphone case being the battery (more packaging). This engineering innovation will change industrial design more than power-efficiency.

Re:Mega-efficient isn't the only thing (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792077)

This engineering innovation will change industrial design more than power-efficiency.

      Not if my laptop costs $80,000, my car costs $1.7 million and my cell phone costs $5000...

Remembers me Final Fantasy (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792475)

on Final Fantasy Film (not the grotesque "advent children", the first one), he uses a "bio energy" cell to all devices. Fiction goes real? hehe

Can't Reproduce? (2, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#24792849)

The M13 viruses used by the team can't reproduce by themselves and are only capable of infecting bacteria.

How is the fact that they can only infect bacteria relevant? I have plenty of essential bacteria that I consider more or less my organs. That is not any better than saying it can only infect kidney cells.

If they cannot reproduce (even after infecting a bacterium) it shouldn't matter, as there should not be a sufficient amount of these to stop anything.

However, if these things are being mass produced, it seems to me the odds are that pretty soon at least one virus will show up that can reproduce itself. The question is: how many mistakes in transcribing the virus' genome in the lab would be required to allow it to reproduce?

Copying errors are the heart of evolution, and they will happen even on the production line.

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