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Batteries Smaller Than a Grain of Salt

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the packs-a-punch dept.

Power 68

An anonymous reader writes "Lithium-ion batteries have become ubiquitous in today's consumer electronics — powering our laptops, phones, and iPods. Research funded by DARPA is pushing the limits of this technology and trying to create some of the tiniest batteries on Earth, the largest of which would be no bigger than a grain of sand. These tiny energy storage devices could one day be used to power the electronics and mechanical components of tiny micro- to nano-scale devices."

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68 comments

You know.... (3, Funny)

Reilaos (1544173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965036)

As exciting as this is, I would take this news... ... with a grain of salt.

Re:You know.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965062)

You sure you wouldn't prefer a grain of sand?

Re:You know.... (5, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965076)

As exciting as this is, I would take this news... ... with a grain of salt.

Ugh. If you ever said that to me in person I'd likely be charged with a salt and battery.

Re:You know.... (3, Funny)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965376)

I'd probably just punch you both in the face.

What?

Re:You know.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965518)

Soooooo bad, but sooooo good.

Re:You know.... (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 3 years ago | (#33966112)

I can see this article's going to be peppered with puns

Re:You know.... (1)

thynk (653762) | more than 3 years ago | (#33966256)

Only by seasoned /. ers.

Re:You know.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33966462)

I declare you smart person of the day.

Re:You know.... (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 3 years ago | (#33967612)

That's actually the name of my favorite Fish and Chips joint.

Re:You know.... (1)

ricky-road-flats (770129) | more than 3 years ago | (#33971828)

As exciting as this is, I would take this news... ... with a grain of salt.

Ugh. If you ever said that to me in person I'd likely be charged with a salt and battery.

At which point you'd be put in a cell.
Until you were discharged.

Re:You know.... (1)

curtix7 (1429475) | more than 3 years ago | (#33975120)

I think this post wins the internet.

"+6 Incredible" imo

Re:You know.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965548)

YEAHHH!!

Re:You know.... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#33966502)

Great, now the joke posts will number more than all the grains of sand on a beach.

Nice summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965042)

Your English teacher would be disappointed. Ripped the first paragraph off completely.

Take TFA... (0, Redundant)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965048)

...with a grain of salt.

There, I said it.

Re:Take TFA... (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965112)

I blame my slow post speed on my recent upgrade to Chrome 7 [slashdot.org] . Damn you /. ...

Re:Take TFA... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965274)

Your post wouldn't have been dependent on browser speed if it wasn't such an obvious joke.

"Grain of salt" (-1, Redundant)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965058)

"Grain of salt?" What a coincidence, that's exactly what I was thinking when I read this.

iNanites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965070)

Looking forward to read the first complaints over built-in Batteries in the new iNanites by Apple!

BTW..
Would be awsome for the fanbois. Sacred parts from guru Jobs in your bloodvessels and softest tissue. OVERGASM!

non removable? (2, Insightful)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965116)

Apple would still make it un-replaceable ;)

Seriously though, would it not be even more interesting if something useful existed that could make use of these batteries?

Re:non removable? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965200)

Apple would still make it un-replaceable ;)

Sony would make it explosive, Microsoft would make them so they could only half-charge, and Google wouldn't sell it to you until you turned over all your past and future search history.

Tee hee giggle snort.

Re:non removable? (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965766)

would it not be even more interesting if something useful existed that could make use of these batteries?

Light bulbs were pretty useless until there were generators. You can't have something useful that depends on something that doesn't exist.

Why not use in batteries for gadgets? (1)

rvr777 (1082819) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965130)

Why not create a battery that is composed of lots of these tiny batteries that could make a smartphone run for weeks???

Re:Why not use in batteries for gadgets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965158)

Why not read the fucking article and see that research is still in its early stages???

Re:Why not use in batteries for gadgets? (1)

rvr777 (1082819) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965196)

I didn't say "use it NOW". But instead of planning it only for micro/nano devices, maybe it could be used for bigger devices as well, in the future.

Re:Why not use in batteries for gadgets? (3, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965364)

Because the most efficient batteries are the ones that aren't a bunch of teeny batteries all wired together into a larger one. You have all that wasted space, weight, and resistance loss due to all of the connectors. If this scaled, it would be best used in larger batteries.

And, from TFA, they are trying to match current densities, not improve on them. Take your 1Ah battery and replace it with 1,000 1mAh batteries that take up the same space, and now you have to connect 1,000 batteries together to come up with the same 1Ah battery. It's larger, heavier, more complex to build, and doesn't last any longer. It's about as logical as trying to get enough rechargeable button batteries to start your car. Sure, you could do it, but it's gonna be a lot bigger, heavier, expensive, and more prone to failure than your current battery.

The sole purpose of something like this is to power very tiny devices where there's no room for a full-sized battery. It's not improving energy density or efficiency.

Re:Why not use in batteries for gadgets? (2, Insightful)

GlyphedArchitect (1605113) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965178)

Would that not just be a regular battery?

Re:Why not use in batteries for gadgets? (2, Insightful)

Dakman (824764) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965410)

The batteries in TFA are more dense, and have a higher capacity for storage in smaller amounts.

Sand or salt? (4, Funny)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965134)

The title says smaller than a grain of salt but the article says smaller than a grain of sand.

And what kind of salt are you talking about? Table salt, sea salt, pickling salt? Same goes for sand. Waikiki sand, Provincetown sand, Bali sand?

What would be nice is if there were some system of measurement that could be easily understood by the masses when talking about such sizes. For example, how many fractions of a Library of Congress would that be? Or maybe elephants. Elephants are always good. I once listened to a story on NPR about how much water is in the average cloud. The scientist (hydrologist?) involved used elephants to let the listener know how many elephants worth of water was being suspended above our heads when clouds are about.

Personally I prefer metric buttloads. Use that term and everyone knows what you're talking about.

Re:Sand or salt? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965210)

What do you mean, African or European buttloads?

How many kilobuttloads in a decihogshead?

Re:Sand or salt? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965494)

A /metric/ buttload is well defined and not dependent on geography. It's the load distributable on the average butt. We can measure this easily in spanks. It's my observation that 3 spanks equals one buttload.

Re:Sand or salt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965682)

Cubic cubits?

No no no, wrong conversion: (1)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 3 years ago | (#33966212)

... no, wait, never mind. I thought you said dickhead, in which case it would be the other way around.

8-P

Cheers,

Re:Sand or salt? (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 3 years ago | (#33967078)

What do you mean, African or European buttloads?

Both of them use the metric system, as far as I'm aware. The US still uses the imperial system, which is why our butt-loads, ass-tons, and shit-loads are all somewhat larger.

I'm not sure whether that's the cause of, or the result of us being so full of shit.

Re:Sand or salt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965698)

mm3

Re:Sand or salt? (2, Insightful)

Klinky (636952) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965820)

The proper measurement is actually metric asstons...

Re:Sand or salt? (3, Interesting)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#33966616)

Except people in the US, since nobody can remember the conversion factor between Metric Buttloads (mB) and Imperial Fucktons.

Re:Sand or salt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33966690)

Oh i don't know, sometimes if you're talking to the "right" kind of person, no matter what you say can be countered with something like "well who gets to decide how big a metric?!"

Re:Sand or salt? (1)

KORfan (524397) | more than 3 years ago | (#33969094)

Sand particles are sized between .0625 mm and 2 mm.

You're Bugged (1)

lowrydr310 (830514) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965150)

This could give a new definition to the term 'bugged.'

Just imagine the fun you could have with a remotely operated or autonomous flying reconnaissance/surveillance vehicle the size of an insect!

Great. (1)

RykerrK (1898308) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965154)

"Shit. I dropped the battery, hon."

"Where did it fall?"

"I...DON'T...KNOW!"

Sony (1)

DamageLabs (980310) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965166)

Just don't tell this to Sony.

Who knows how many micro explosions would we have to endure every day.

Sony, and micro explosions every day (1)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 3 years ago | (#33966226)

... even when it's not Burrito Day in the caf.

You could hook thousands together (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965234)

to make a zillion-volt battery that lasts a fraction of a second.

Re:You could hook thousands together (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965412)

Can I hire you for User Interface design? You seem to have the type of thinking I'm looking for.

This is impossible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965280)

All technological progress came from the Apollo missions of the Space Age. Defense and the toy industry have nothing to do with it. Space Nutters, unite against this reality! Back to our fantasies!

Dammit. (1)

JesseL (107722) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965282)

I'm already going blind trying to solder components smaller than 0402 [wikipedia.org] .

Oh wait, nevermind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33965296)

"The research is still in its early stages..."

is that 10 years off or never?

Maybe they should get the big ones right first (3, Interesting)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965372)

I don't know about everyone else, but I've had no less than 4 devices in the last year have faulty Li-Ion batteries (they didn't hold a charge, or ran out much faster than they should have). Each time I had to exchange the device for a new one, at which point it worked as expected.

Is this really how batteries are now? It's pathetic.

Re:Maybe they should get the big ones right first (5, Interesting)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965500)

A couple of months ago, my ThinkPad reported my battery as "unusable" after a year of service. Odd thing was, the battery didn't slowly lose service life. I was getting 3 hours at first, and it was down to about 2 hours 30 minutes, then one day I plugged it in to recharge and the ThinkPad flat out refused to charge the battery. It was under warranty, so Lenovo issued my company a new one free of charge and even overnighted it, but...

I'm wondering if this is a sign that manufacturers are finally taking the scary explosive dangerousness that is highly unstable Li-Ion seriously, and programming their chargers to be overcautious about any and all perceived faults in the battery?

Re:Maybe they should get the big ones right first (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33966916)

I'd be more interested in knowing why every time the energy density of batteries increase, my consumer grade hardware simply gets thinner with a smaller battery to compensate and make sure my autonomy remains horribly short despite the technology being available to drastically improve things?
I mean, I know that packing too much energy density around is dangerous but the cell configurations of the larger laptops could easily fit into a smaller one and provide the uncorded hours that those rated numbers boast if the designers weren't so bent on pursuing the look of the macbook air...

Get me your biggest smallest battery! (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965406)

...tiniest batteries on Earth, the largest of which would be no bigger than a grain of sand

Call the Guiness people--these might be the biggest smallest batteries out there!

- RG>

Great.... (1)

davev2.0 (1873518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965432)

These tiny energy storage devices could one day be used to power the electronics and mechanical components of tiny micro- to nano-scale devices

I can just imagine trying to change THOSE.

Re:Great.... (2, Interesting)

Dakman (824764) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965486)

The connector is larger than the battery! Actually, considering the small size of these, let's pair it up with some wireless power action. Then we'd be in business.

That's nice, but (1)

Errtu76 (776778) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965688)

could you pass me the salt?

Ok... (3, Insightful)

i_b_don (1049110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965722)

They've got this already... they're called capacitors. Ok, they're not smaller than a grain of salt, but an 0201 package is really fricken small.

Do you really need the greater power density you get from a chemical reaction rather than a capacitor at those sizes? A capacitor is so much easier to fabricate and charge that I can't imagine why you would go for a battery. I mean, in order to charge a battery, you'd need a chip that is MUCH larger than a grain of salt... although even for a cap you'd want a voltage regulator of some sort.

Maybe I'm missing something here. What is this for? Nano-machines? Nano listening devices? Nano-trackers? Now that seems like the really interesting question....

d

Re:Ok... (2, Interesting)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965988)

Maybe I'm missing something here. What is this for? Nano-machines? Nano listening devices? Nano-trackers? Now that seems like the really interesting question....

That's the thing. These are the proverbial horse that's going to pull the cart. We're not sure what these are going to power, but the power source has to be available before those things can be developed. Sure you can design devices without a known power source, but you can't hook a prototype nano-medical bot up to a 12V with jumper cables for proof of concept purposes.

Re:Ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33966458)

It's not about density. Capacitors have a high self-discharge rate. Batteries are capable of storing energy for a much longer time.

SALT GRAIN BATTERIES USED FOR SURVEILLANCE! (2, Insightful)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#33965848)

Slashdot could have gotten more readers with this headline:

SALT GRAIN BATTERIES USED FOR SURVEILLANCE!

Shocking development! (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 3 years ago | (#33966090)

But I don't get much of a charge out of it....

Apple funded the development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33966888)

To power the iPod iNvisa.

http://video.yahoo.com/watch/4656101/12447278 [yahoo.com]

....a long way to go before commercial (1)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 3 years ago | (#33966964)

Using atomic layer deposition -- a slow but precise process that allows layers of material only an atom thick to be sprayed on a surface -- she has successfully applied the solid electrolyte lithium aluminosilicate to these nanomaterials.

Using ALD (a relatively costly and slow throughput technique)

The research is still in its early stages: other components of these 3D microbatteries, such as the electrodes, have also been developed, but they have yet to be assembled and integrated to make a functioning battery.

The first stages of this research have begun

So what! (3, Funny)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 3 years ago | (#33966978)

It is already a pain to change AAA batteries, imagine what it is going to be like trying to change one of these things. Good forbid you drop the thing, or put it in the wrong way. Think, how many sides does a grain of salt have! That is going to the number of ways that someone is going to install it wrong!

Also, lets say you want to test it to see if it still has a charge. You put it on your tongue and it dissolves! Now your are stuck shelling out another 5 bucks to Energizer!

Power density (3, Interesting)

ermintru (797621) | more than 3 years ago | (#33968876)

So we current have current laptop batteries that store X power in Y space and when then go wrong they over heat or even burst into flames so the new batteries that store the X power in "grain of rice" space then the power density stored must be a minimum of a 1000 times higher what happens when one of those goes wrong?

Re:Power density (2, Interesting)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 3 years ago | (#33972074)

FTFA:

"We're trying to achieve the same power densities, the same energy densities as traditional lithium ion batteries, but we need to make the footprint much smaller," says Chang.

If these batteries are using a chemical process, they're limited to chemical energy densities, which can't get a whole lot higher than what we see today.

A white-hot iron rod will make your clothing burst into flames at a touch. A white-hot spark from your Dremel tool grinding that same rod will bounce right off your clothes, or your skin, without any effect or sensation. So, yeah, it would probably be sort of like that.

Oh yeah... (1)

GeekHang (1926104) | more than 3 years ago | (#33972342)

Well if you put a thousand of these together I'd hope they could power a car or make my laptop battery last longer :P
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