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Nanowires Boost Laptop Battery Life to 20 Hours

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the more-bang-for-your-buck dept.

Portables 238

brianmed writes to tell us that Stanford researchers have created a new use for silicon nanowires that promise to reinvent lithium-ion batteries. "The new version, developed through research led by Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. A laptop that now runs on battery for two hours could operate for 20 hours, a boon to ocean-hopping business travelers. [...] The lithium is stored in a forest of tiny silicon nanowires, each with a diameter one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper. The nanowires inflate four times their normal size as they soak up lithium. But, unlike other silicon shapes, they do not fracture."

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238 comments

Sony Nanowire Batteries (5, Funny)

Apple Acolyte (517892) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753166)

Now with 10 times the explosive power.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (1)

irving47 (73147) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753230)

No doubt. I can imagine a rush of customers desperately seeking a 1-inch thick titanium plate to stick between their laptop and their 'valuables'.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21753458)

>No doubt. I can imagine a rush of customers desperately seeking a 1-inch thick titanium plate to stick between their laptop and their 'valuables'.

The value of items are only what people are willing to pay for it

A bit like shrapnel. (1)

emj (15659) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753238)

Dangerous stuff [wikipedia.org]. But seriously if this ever makes it to the production line I'm sure it will only give a slight increase atm. I mean it's not like battery tech har mad much improvement in the last 50 years...

Re:A bit like shrapnel. (4, Insightful)

Pope (17780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754382)

Are you joking? Batteries have come a LONG way since WW 2! Granted, electronics have become more powerful and energy-efficient as well, but you can't deny the progress made. Look at the life of a current generation set of Lithium AAs.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (5, Funny)

mpe (36238) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753252)

Now with 10 times the explosive power.

How long before laptop batteries get classified as "munitions"?

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (4, Interesting)

GospelHead821 (466923) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753376)

It's sort of funny that you should say that. I work for a company that manufactures some battery-powered instruments. We actually have to ship the batteries separately from the instruments because they classify as a more hazardous material than the rest of the shipment.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (4, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753592)

Actually energy contents is already higher than some explosives. The current limitation is that you cannot releaste the energy in a short burst.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753782)

How does the power density of these compare to gasoline? We can make lots of jokes about them blowing up and being munitions, but first I'd like to see a comparison between one of these and 0.1 gallons of gasoline.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (5, Informative)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754344)

How does the power density of these compare to gasoline?
Lousy

http://wiki.xtronics.com/index.php/Energy_density [xtronics.com]

Material Volumetric(Wh/l)Gravimetric (Wh/kg)

Fission of U-235 4.7 x 1012 2.5 x1010
Boron 38,278 16361
JP10 (dicyclopentadiene)10,975 11,694
Diesel 10,942 13,762
Gasoline 9,700 12,200
Black Coal solid =>CO2 9444 6667
LNG 7,216 12,100
Propane (liquid) 7,500 - 6,600 13,900
Black Coal Bulk =>CO2 6278 6667
Ethanol 6,100 7,850
Methanol 4,600 6,400
Liquid H2 2,600 39,000
Secondary LiOn Polymer 300 130 - 1200
Secondary Lithium-Ion 300 110
Nickel Metal Hydride 100 Wh/l 60Wh/kg
Lead Acid Battery 40 25
Propane (Gas - 1 bar) 28.1 13,900
Compressed Air 17 34
Ice to water 9.3 9.3

If this new battery is 10x as efficient it is still 3x worse than gasoline.

Energy/volume constant? (1)

gozu (541069) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754282)

Technically, grenades, batteries and gas tanks are all high-density energy containers. They tend to be hazardous (flammable, explosive, radioactive, etc.) and more powerful batteries will indeed be more dangerous batteries unless similarly significant progress is made in securing them.

I think we're going to see quite a few more stories about battery recalls and killer cellphones.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753280)

I was going to say that you are being funny, but this doesn't increase the amount of lithium in the battery - but it looks like you may actually not be funny at all... I think there is 10x as much lithium in these batteries!

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (2, Funny)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753336)

It grows up to 4 times the original size and can go for 20 hours?

They're going to put Extenze (and Viagra) out of business with a product like this.

On the bright side we won't have to see any more commercials of the chick with the freaky eyes.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (4, Funny)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753360)

No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There is always a boom tomorrow. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEsFB2GPy24 [youtube.com]

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (4, Funny)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753454)

Not only that, but when it explodes in your lap, you get riddled with nanowire superpowers! And mostly in the very area that your laptop's radiation has probably been eroding your powers.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753790)

In a related story, the TSA has now banned laptop computers from all commercial flights in the USA.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21754188)

And all TSA employees are now out of jobs, because the airline industry just went bankrupt.

Re:Sony Nanowire Batteries (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753810)

yeah, but chances are, they'll aim for smaller batteries rather than just longer lasting.

Batteries of 1/5th the size and twice the battery life. A lot of companies say they want to work on longer battery life, but what they don't say is they don't want to trade weight for it. Youc an always add more battery life by adding more battery weight. Personally, I wouldn't mind swapping my 1/2kg LiIon for a 2kg LiIon for 4x the battery life in some cases, but apparantly not many people agree.

Promising (3, Interesting)

jimbo3123 (320148) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753222)

The article makes this sound very promising.

It may very well be the leap that keeps battery technology ahead of ultra-capacitors for the foreseeable future.

Re:Promising (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753286)

i wonder if this helps with the "memory" problem that laptop batteries have.. i don't care what they say.. anyone that has ever used them know that this effect still exists and is a pain in the royal ass....

Re:Promising (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753350)

I don't know what you are talking about - I don't have to completely discharge my Li-Ion batteries. In fact, I think completely discharging them seems to shorten their life considerably (based on charging my phone every other day vs. every day). You need to spend some quality time with some NiCd batteries again to remember what the memory effect was like! Got any power tools or RC cars around?

Re:Promising (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753658)

It's not exactly a memory effect, but LiIon batteries do degrade over time. Unlike NiCd cells, their life is best preserved by keeping them about around 50% charge. You get a lot of people complaining that their batteries wear out quickly because they still think the things they learned about NiCd cells apply, so they fully discharge and recharge their LiIon cells, which is the absolute worst case for them.

Re:Promising (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753786)

which still is an issue.. if the 50% mark is best.. thenwhat is the point of a 3 hour battery if using it more than 1.5 hours will damage it? might as well stuck with much cheaper NiCd where you use it for the full 1.5 hours..

Re:Promising (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754094)

If your typical usage is only 1.5 hours, then you have 2 choices. Put in a NiCd battery and drain it to zero each time or put in a Li-ion battery and use it for 1.5 hours or less... no need to drain it all the way. Every once in a while, you can use it for 2 or 3 hours and, maybe after a year it will loose 10% or so of its original capacity. It would have to get all the way to 50% capacity before it is of the same utility as the NiCd, and even then you still don't have to discharge it 100% each time.

Re:Promising (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753352)

Lithium ion batteries don't suffer from the "memory effect". You're thinking of NiCd batteries.

Re:Promising (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753650)

Lithium ion batteries don't suffer from the "memory effect". You're thinking of NiCd batteries.

They do. It is just not as strong and the battery manufacturers conveniently omit it. Also Li-Ion
suffers from enforced capacity degradation, since, unlike NiCad, overcharging can make them explode and measuring battery capacity is tricky, so the battery controller lest you put in a little less every time you recharge.

Re:Promising (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753742)

Actually, theirs is similar to the NiMH batteries memory effect. They remember if the charge was too low instead of too high, and can suffer more from that.

Three things that affect LiIon life:
(1) Stored with charge too low, or high (memory effect like results)
(2) Stored to warm
(3) Over-drained (memory effect like results).

Of course, the worst culprit, which seems to drag them to their knees after not much time at all: age.

Re:Promising (0)

Amouth (879122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753744)

no i am talking Lithum batteries here.. if you have owned a laptop for more than 2 years (the same laptop and battery) you will notice it .. i use my laptop all the time.. what once was a 3 hour battery now lasts 45min .. it is annoying as hell... but what is more annoying is they claim that doesn't happen.. but it does.....

Re:Promising (2, Informative)

ChronoReverse (858838) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753818)

That's not memory, that's battery aging. Li-Ion batteries, instead of having memory, simply age and lost capacity over time. If your battery is warm and at anything significantly above or below ~60%, then it loses capacity at a much higher rate.

Re:Promising (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754090)

Nobody cares what it's called. It's still the same problem. With NiCads, old batteries give less running time per charge. With Li-ions, old batteries give less running time per charge. You can call it whatever you want. What we want to know is, will this new technology fix the problem with getting less power out of old batteries?

Re:Promising (3, Interesting)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753356)

I'll say it sounds promising. A major hindrance to using alternative energy (eg solar), which is what most want to move to, to produce electricity is storing the power. The sun and wind, among other things, can't exactly be controlled manually to produce power on a whim. Inefficient storing is a major drawback. Any advance that improves storage capacity (for any platform) by an order of magnitude is promising to say the least. The article barely touched on how important this could be.

Re:Promising (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753574)

"to produce electricity is storing the power."

A major hindrance is cost versus return. Assuming no degradation, it still take years to break even, and when considering the life of a panel you are lucky to break even before disposal.

If I could spend 2 grand and break even in a year, and get five years of use out of it I would be solar ASAP. As it stands it's still not practical for most people.

Solar isn't there yet. Sure it's a lot better then in the 70s.

Now what you could do is use it to store energy gathered from the power company during non peak hours. That would save money and energy. Of course, it depends on how much these things will cost.

Re:Promising (2, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754270)

If I could spend 2 grand and break even in a year,

Wow, you have no familiarity with the concept of long-term investments do you? No, solar isn't an economical investment in most places. But if you expect your investments to return your expenditures in one year, I'd hate to see what your retirement plan looks like.

For anyone interested in seeing how the economics of solar power works out where they live, check out this handy-dandy photovoltaics economics calculator [daughtersoftiresias.org].

Re:Promising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21753462)

Not as promising as it sounds... from another article:

"It's a really nice proof of concept," says Gerbrand Ceder, a materials scientist and battery expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Making lithium ion batteries capable of holding 10 times the charge of conventional versions still requires a cathode that holds 10 times the charge, too, Ceder says. However, he adds, incorporating a silicon nanowire-based anode could allow batterymakers to reduce the weight and volume of the anode and add more cathode material in its place, which could give lithium batteries a power boost. That could make life a little easier for all of us.

Standford? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21753224)

What is this Standford you speak of?

Re:Standford? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21753330)

It's a fake university.

Re:Standford? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21753334)

Ah, the Leland Stanford Junior University. Maybe when it grows up it will be a full university.

would this be a deserving patent (1)

wakim1618 (579135) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753270)

From the article:

Cui said that a patent application has been filed. He is considering formation of a company or an agreement with a battery manufacturer. Manufacturing the nanowire batteries would require "one or two different steps, but the process can certainly be scaled up," he added. "It's a well understood process."

I guess the two relevant question are: (i) whether such research would have been conducted in the 1st place if there were no such economic incentives, and (ii) would a patent system increase or decrease the research in the further development of this technology?

Re:would this be a deserving patent (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753388)

I'd say that increasing battery performance by 10x is EXACTLY the kind of thing that the patent system is built for. This development can only be good for society, even if we have to wait a few years before it becomes generic.

Smaller lighter batteries (5, Insightful)

farnsaw (252018) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753308)

Rather than tripling the life of a current battery, I can see this being used to power a laptop off a battery the size of a current cell phone battery and shrinking cell phone batteries to the size of a nickel. This will drastically reduce the size of several of our common devices such as Bluetooth headsets, cell phones, iPods (and other MP3 players), digital cameras, etc. In many such devices, the battery is still the single largest and heaviest component and being able to shrink this by a factor of 3-5 will drastically affect the size and weight of them.

Re:Smaller lighter batteries (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753494)

don't you mean they can count TO 1023 on their hands?

It's 1024 numbers, but it only goes to 1023

1111111111 = 1023

Re:Smaller lighter batteries (1)

farnsaw (252018) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753710)

Yes, but they are aware of the overflow / wraparound when it happens, therefore they can count to 1024.

Re:Smaller lighter batteries (2, Interesting)

Stormcrow309 (590240) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753734)

Actually with some thought, a human can count to over 2 million on their hands. Ever considered about rotating your hand by 180 degrees as part of your numbering system? It is commonly done in american sign language to count to 100 on one hand. Using three positions per hand, you can count to over 1.2 times 10 to the 27th power. Of course, trying to remember hand positions in such a system would likely be difficult.

Re:Smaller lighter batteries (2, Insightful)

InvalidError (771317) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753724)

Rather than tripling the life of a current battery, I can see this being used to power a laptop off a battery the size of a current cell phone battery and shrinking cell phone batteries to the size of a nickel. This will drastically reduce the size of several of our common devices such as Bluetooth headsets, cell phones, iPods (and other MP3 players), digital cameras, etc.

Great, more unworkably small displays, keypads and other tactile/visual HIDs.

I think many of those devices have already reached the limit where size is impeding usability and ruggedness. I personally cannot stand squinting at video on sub-3" LCDs and hate my current cell phone's ~1" wide keypad.

Re:Smaller lighter batteries (2, Insightful)

eharvill (991859) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754380)

Great, more unworkably small displays, keypads and other tactile/visual HIDs


Or, keep the device sizes the same, reduce the battery size and add more functionality/technology/features/etc in said device.

Shrink a battery in a laptop and you can have enough extra room to have an additional 2-3 hard drives if one wanted.

Re:Smaller lighter batteries (1)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753754)

With this technology applies on cell phone, my thumb will be able to press button 1 to 9 and */0/# all at once instead of 1/2/4/5.

Re:Smaller lighter batteries (1)

nani popoki (594111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753776)

Your tag-line is wrong on several levels. Non-mutilated, non-mutant humans have eight fingers. 11111111b = 255 Using the thumbs as well, 1111111111b = 1023.

Re:Uh, maybe 1023? (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754016)

"Computer Scientists can count to 1024 on their fingers" (non-mutant, non-mutilatated, human computer scientists)

Uh, shouldn't that be count to 1023?

Re:Smaller lighter batteries (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754092)

This will drastically reduce the size of several of our common devices such as Bluetooth headsets, cell phones, iPods (and other MP3 players), digital cameras, etc.
How small, exactly, are you and your hands? Or, perhaps a better question to ask is, how large is your battery with respect to your phone? I have a small phone (Nokia 3220). The phone's dimensions are 104 x 44 x 18.8 mm, and the battery is maybe 1/8 of its size, if that large. My broken phone (Sony Ericsson T630i), is 102 x 43 x 17 mm. Granted, this phone's battery was proportionally larger than the one in my Nokia, but still, I couldn't imagine the thing much smaller. The only way you could shrink it is on the Z dimension, perhaps from 17mm down to 15. But you still need something to hold on to.

Myself, I don't believe I could, let alone want to, regularly handle a phone that is much smaller than my 3220. And I can't imagine the public accepting a Zoolander phone

Thickness of paper? (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753310)

Making the assumption that the reference for comparison is standard 20lb bond paper, a sheet is approximately 0.0038 inches thick [paper-paper.com]. So, we're talking 0.0038 mils once the 1/1000th thickness factor is added.

Anyone care to convert this into lengths of football fields or Empire State Building height units? <grin>

Re:Thickness of paper? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21753500)

football field = 100 yards = 3600 inches
paper = 1/1000000 football fields (approx)
it is about a billionth of football field length.

btw it is approximately 100 nm, almost as thin as wires on CPUs a few years ago.

Re:Thickness of paper? (3, Funny)

1000101 (584896) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753632)

Stack up 4,648,421,052 of these bad boys and you'll have a nano wire Empire State building. Conversely, the length of these are approximately 2.15x10^-7 Empire State Building's long*.

*including tower

Yes, Nanowires and also my special tech. (1)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753318)

I've created a new invention that is much better than these "nanowires" and am in the process of patenting it. I call it an "on/off" button. When my special "on/off" button is moved to the "off" position, laptop batteries can last for weeks and weeks. I've even got some reports of a battery lasting over a year with my special "turnitoff" technology.

I'm going to make millions!
TDz.

Re:Yes, Nanowires and also my special tech. (1)

Svet-Am (413146) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753542)

obviously, you're unaware of the natural leakage of rechargeable batteries. even in the "off" position, most rechargeable batteries will discharge in a matter of weeks on the upper end.

Wrong. (3, Informative)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753666)

obviously, you're unaware of the natural leakage of rechargeable batteries. even in the "off" position, most rechargeable batteries will discharge in a matter of weeks on the upper end.

That's highly incorrect. Lithium ion batteries have a self-discharge rate of about 5% per month. However, while the battery is connected to a power supply, some energy is always consumed, just like the way desktop PSUs consume power when the computer is off, but when the PSU cutoff switch is not switched off. That's why laptops will not stay charged for months when unused. Take the battery OUT of the laptop, and you will be able to power it on a year after you turn it off.

Low-self-discharge (LSD) NiMH cells (such as Sanyo Eneloop) have discharge rates that are even lower... up to as little as 20% per year.

Re:Yes, Nanowires and also my special tech. (1)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753676)

"obviously"? No, I've powered up laptops that have been sitting in a cabinet for over a year. Yeah, they didn't last very long (half an hour) until I had to plug them back in, but rechargables last way more that a "matter of weeks"
Maybe you've got bad product?

Re:Yes, Nanowires and also my special tech. (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753836)

Early reports indicate that devices that have these batteries will also incorporate your technology as well, increasing battery lifespan a hundred-fold.

patent (2, Insightful)

ageforce_ (719072) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753326)

why does the assistant professor get the patent?
I would say he was employed by Stanford. So Stanford should receive the patent. If his research-money was provided by a public institution (some sort of grant), then either the research should be public (patent-free), or the patent should be somehow associated to the country.
I don't see why he gets to profit from the discovery. (After all he was payed to do that. It would have been bad, if he hadn't found anything.)

Re:patent (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21753436)

You invent something like this (or anything for that matter), then see if you are still of the mindset that people shouldn't own their own work. Enough of this "Information wants to be free" nonsense.

Re:patent (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753440)

Not to say your point is wrong, but as an FYI:

Getting a patent is a huge motivator for research professors. Mostly for academic reasons. I do agree with you in principle however: He should be on the patent, but the patent should be public domain.

Re:patent (4, Informative)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753882)

Universities have patent licensing programs for this, and often support their facultry or students in founding companies based on their research.

I'm sure Stanford has made a killing by licensing to or investing in companies. Here's a list of their startup investments - not necessarily patent related, but I'm sure many were founded by Stanford professors or alumni with patents licensed back from the university...

http://otl.stanford.edu/about/resources/equity.html [stanford.edu]

They probably made over a billion on Google alone...

Because of the Bayh-Dole act (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753902)

Because of the Bayh-Dole Act [wikipedia.org], which commercialized federally-funded research.

Re:Because of the Bayh-Dole act (1)

ageforce_ (719072) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754052)

According to the wiki page only the institution receives the patent. (It must however share royalties with the inventor.)
I just skimmed over the article, so maybe I missed something, though.

YES! - So my Tesla will go 2450 miles per charge! (1)

non-sequitur (179054) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753364)

It's good news, since there's no charging stations along my commute across the country.....

Assuming this in't hype and (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753378)

'five years away', what about the automobile? It seems that would be the money shot of this technology.

Right now the biggest reason for not buying an electric car is range. If my car that gets 120 miles on a charge now gets 1200 miles, I can not travel cross country in it and only need to charge at night.
Or bette, they can make bigger cars that get 600 mile range. That seems to me to be the 'tipping point' for acceptance.

We can discuss how much people 'need' but the fact is people feel they need more, and that's the choke point.

Re:Assuming this in't hype and (1)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753526)

Or bette, they can make bigger cars that get 600 mile range. That seems to me to be the 'tipping point' for acceptance

My current car gets 700km to a tank of gas...so I have to visit a station every 500 miles or so...so yeah the "tipping point" for me would be between 450 and 600 miles on a single charge... I visit somewhere where I either fill up with gas or fill up with electrons... I don't care either way

Re:Assuming this in't hype and (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753784)

Depending on where you live, charging can be more convenient than buying more petrol. My parents, for example, both live in small villages a few miles outside a town. They drive in to work, and have to drive out of their way slightly to visit a petrol station that is reasonably priced. For them, plugging in the car overnight would be more convenient. My father often has to drive to London and back, which is around a 300 mile round trip. An electric car with a 350 mile range and an overnight charging facility would make this feasible.

There are a lot of people who never (or rarely) need to drive anything like the maximum range of their current cars.

Re:Assuming this in't hype and (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753528)

Whilst I agree with your comment. I have a feeling that expense may be the limiting factor here. I suspect these will cost more than the current small lithium batteries, so imagining a 'car battery' of these is a non-starter.

Re:Assuming this in't hype and (1)

mwilliamson (672411) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753740)

If this works out, and costs come down with scale, then this is the only single logical choice for government to subsidize instead of wasting our tax money on subsidizing corn-based ethanol. Before someone goes off on how electric cars only move the pollution around, I call bullshit. It's obvious it moves some of it around, but large power plants even with their lossy distribution system being used to charge lossy batteries for electric cars are still orders of magnitude more efficient than the small prime movers under most hoods. If you don't believe me, price it out for yourself. The big guys don't loose money.

Recharge Cycles (1)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753460)

I skimmed TFA but didn't see anything that discussed charge/discharge cycles... It might be a wonderful technology, but if it can't be cycled much, then it wouldn't be of much use...

Buy lithium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21753464)

or buy shares in a company that mines lithium. If this discovery does what it promises to do, the demand for lithium will go through the roof.

4277mA hours per gram (4, Informative)

TopSpin (753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753482)

A short but more technical story found here [rsc.org].

Re:4277mA hours per gram (1)

corychristison (951993) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754200)

That's pretty good...

The most I have seen in a AA battery is 2650 (although this is NiMH), so in comparison: 1 AA battery is roughly 15-20 grams (estimated).

15 x 4277 = 64155mAh
20 x 4277 = 85540mAh

Re:4277mA hours per gram (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754398)

Maybe this is a stupid question but what does "expanded by 400%" mean? Does that mean 4x or 5x? After all, if you say that it expanded by 100% that would imply 2x so extrapolating... It's just horribly vague.

Any work on the flip side? (4, Insightful)

iamacat (583406) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753532)

It's a shame that enough power to cause a massive explosion can only power a device that, for the most part, just displays text for 3 hours. We really need to rethink what a computer does when someone reads e-mail or browses the web. With an e-paper display, processor, disk and a WiFi radio should just briefly power themselves on when the user goes to a new URL and then completely shut down, yielding weeks of typical use on a single charge. Audio and video playback can be achieved by a dedicated chip and achieve playback times of the latest iPods. If users also want to use the same laptop as a desktop replacement, it can an internal PDA-like subsystem with it's own low power CPU, RAM and flash storage that synchronizes some directories with the main disk. Users can then choose weather they need high performance or long battery life at the moment and control either subsystem from the same display, keyboard and trackpad.

With clever engineering it should be possible to make a laptop exclusively used in low power mode solar powered if it's normally left out when not in use.

Re:Any work on the flip side? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21753912)

With clever engineering it should be possible to make a laptop exclusively used in low power mode solar powered if it's normally left out when not in use.


You mean like this one? [laptop.org]

Re:Any work on the flip side? (1)

bogie (31020) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754042)

This is where you can squarely blame Microsoft. Both Windows and Office became more bloated with each revision. Should businessmen really need $1000.00 worth of hardware just to work on Word and Excel docs and browse the web while on the road?

Re:Any work on the flip side? (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754142)

e-paper is great from a power consumption point of view, but it reacts much slower than LCD when the display changes. Because of this, it would make an awful laptop display.

Re:Any work on the flip side? (1)

farnsaw (252018) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754228)

Several items are coming to a head in the laptop market that will drastically reduce power usage.

1) SSD Hard Drive. [tomshardware.com] The hard drive is one of the biggest power consumers in the laptop today, by changing to an SSD, this can be drastically reduced. Yes, they are more expensive and they are smaller capacity than a HD, but in addition to being less power hungry, they are also much faster, smaller, and lighter.

2) Digital Paper Displays. [cdrinfo.com] The back lighting required by current LCDs is very expensive to run power consumption wise. They also require power 100% of the time to maintain the image itself even though this is much less than the back light power requirements. As the digital paper displays become more commercialized, we will see them start to take over the laptop market. Digital paper does not use back lighting and does not require power to maintain the image, only to change the image. Thus drastically reducing the amount of power required for the display.

3) Wireless network adapter. There are several changes coming in the Wireless world in the near future that will reduce the power requirements of wireless networking. As 802.11n [eetimes.com] moves from draft to production standards and the equipment become inter operable, we will see more usage of the N mode networking which will allow for most network cards to run at lower power for the same connectivity we see today. WiMax [wimax.com] and other similar technologies [techworld.com] will also bring lower power consumption for wireless networking.

4) Sub 40nm chips. As we shrink circuits smaller and smaller, we are finding that they, in general, require less power to operate. In addition, new materials, such as the new High-k [intel.com] materials, are required to allow circuits to operate correctly at this smaller scale and these new materials are also introducing power savings. As RAM, CPU, and main chipset chips are moved to the smaller die size we will find they use less and less power.

5) Non-Volatile MRAM [wikipedia.org]. Another power consumer is main memory. Even if the system is idle, RAM requires power just to maintain the data stored in it. New technologies are just coming to fruition that will create RAM that does not require power constantly but will be just as fast as current RAM offerings and not have the life span problems that Flash RAM has.

Combine all of these changes with the fact that we may see Li-Ion batteries that have 3-5 times the capacity of today's Li-Ion batteries on a size to size or weight to weight ratio, I expect that over the next 5 years we will see personal electronic devices shrink to down to the point where they are practically non-existent

Not quite (1)

jcorno (889560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753534)

Ten times is a big exaggeration. Silicon has 10 times the specific capacity of carbon, which is the most commonly used electrode material, but that's just one piece of the battery. They're ignoring the current collector, insertion compound, electrode separator, packaging, and control electronics. It's still an improvement, but nowhere near 10X.

Either way, I have a hard time believing these things have a stable capacity after cycling. Fracturing is not the only problem in silicon electrodes. As the lithium is released, the swollen silicon structures tend to fuse to neighboring structures. Looking at the SEM images included in the article, it seems pretty unlikely that the fibers wouldn't eventually fuse into one solid mass and completely lose capacity.

"Amount" of electricity???? (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753552)

Seems education is geting worse and worse. That would be either "amount of energy" or "capacity at the same voltage". And it would be "store" not "procuce". Incompetents.

Re:"Amount" of electricity???? (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753758)

Yeah that's what I thought: What a bunch of incompetents, Stanford professors changing the way batteries works. Practically morons~

Oh, since th wire absorb the lithium, Amount is correct.Oh, and amount of electricity is, in fact, correct.

Electricity refers to electromotive force. See the word force in that sentence? That's why 'amount' is correct.

In introduction EE course will teach you that.

Re:"Amount" of electricity???? (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754198)

One could reasonably interpret "amount of electricity" as "number of Coulombs stored in a battery of the same size".

I do agree that it stores rather than produces though.

Critical questions of how (4, Insightful)

Sitnalta (1051230) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753584)

1) How much will they cost
2) How long does it take to charge
3) How many charges can you get in its lifetime.

If any one of those is a major deficiency, the technology will be worthless. Since they didn't immediately bring up use in electric cars, I'm guessing there's currently a fatal flaw that applies to one of those questions.

My money is still on ultra-capacitors.

Re:Critical questions of how (5, Funny)

quickpick (1021471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754006)

1) How much will they cost
If you have to ask you can't afford it.
2) How long does it take to charge
Not too long, plug it in and wait for the amber light to turn green.
3) How many charges can you get in its lifetime.
If its made by Apple you can charge it as many times as you want, but replacing it will cost about 82% of the original cost of the full price of the original device you bought it for UNLESS you buy an Apple Care Plan for 73% of the full price of the original device you bought it for.

If any one of those is a major deficiency, the technology will be worthless. Since they didn't immediately bring up use in electric cars, I'm guessing there's currently a fatal flaw that applies to one of those questions. They will ALL be deficient to one person or another...therefore the technology will be worthless in some aspect by someone. Why is it that people only want to use it in electric cars? I'm sure all the single and lonely women wouldn't mind having a device that doesn't quit on them before they're TRULY satisfied...which will never happen because women are never satisfied. Thats why its called a ball and chain.

My money is still on ultra-capacitors.
You fool. My money is in Gold because the Fiat System will fail at some point and you can't buy food with ultra-capacitors...

Promising New Technology (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21753586)

Silicon nanowires have far more uses than first thought of and are set to revolutionize a number of important engineering fields. This application is particularly novel [dwarfurl.com]

The Hard Part...Commercialization (3, Interesting)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21753738)

As a guess based on my experience, the actual implementation of a design, with prototyping, testing for failure modes, integral monitoring, sensors and such, I will bet that another 1-2 dozen patents will be filed and $10s of millions will be spent getting or trying to get the "pre-production" version over a 3-5 year time frame. If they leverage by working with an existing battery manufacturer, maybe they get it to 2-3 years.

Given that the initial results suggest an energy density increase of an order of magnitude, I suspect VCs are already crawling into Palo Alto & up to Standford.

What happens between the "experiment" where a 10/1 advantage is produced, to the final produceable & safe product, it is not uncommon to see 10/1 advantages slip to 5/1.

Other notes in this thread have joked at 10 times the explosive power, which battery manufacturers have worked out in existing batteries, but this one will offer BIGGER challenges. I wouldn't know how to calculate the "explosive power" of the end design if safeties failed, but this will be critical.

Any serious damage which might cause a catastrophic short would cause some companies to NOT accept these batteries, like airlines for instance. My pure guess is that physical damage, in say an automobile accident, or similar "mashing", will make the design of safety features be what takes the most time and effort.

Hundreds of pages? (1, Offtopic)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754004)

From the article:

That's the first problem. Printers routinely report that they are low on ink even when they aren't, and in some cases there are still hundreds of pages worth of ink left.


Although I find it despicable that printers might under-report their ink capacity (though I always though it was a "buy ink" warning rather than a "put new ink in" warning. An important distinction, as you want to have fresh ink handy *before* you actually run out), I find it very difficult to believe that even the most unethical manufacture would under-report when hundreds of pages remain on a product that is only designed to handle circa 200 pages to begin with.

Now I have noticed, on a family member's HP, that it is printing color even when a page is pure black text. This seems particularly wasteful to me, and when I looked at it, I couldn't figure out if it was a setting, or just fantastically poor design decisions.

Electric car revolution? (1)

Vthornheart (745224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754322)

Could this have a positive effect on the search for a longer lasting electric car?
I don't know what the odds are that this new tech could be used in electric car batteries... but if it provided a comparable "usage" boost (2 hours vs. 20 hours for laptops = 10-fold increase)
The old Volt got ~100 miles on a charge... if a similar increase was had due to this technology, it'd make a car like the Volt get 1000 miles to a charge... which would be amazing. I'm just speculating, mind you.

Before we get too excited, BOGUS? (1)

k2backhoe (1092067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21754402)

To actually hold 5 to 10 times more energy, you must have 5 to 10 times as much active lithium (that is, Li which is available to partake in the charge/discharge chemical reaction cycle). You still get the same number of electrons from each Li atom, at the same potential. This implies that existing Li batteries have 20% of their volume (or mass, depending on our definition of energy density) containing active Li. I thought that the utilization factor was currently higher than that. Anyone knowledgeable on battery chemistry and construction care to comment?
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