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Nanowires Boost Laptop Battery Life to 20 Hours 238

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the more-bang-for-your-buck dept.
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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Nanowires Boost Laptop Battery Life to 20 Hours

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  • by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:18PM (#21753166)
    Now with 10 times the explosive power.
    • by irving47 (73147)
      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'.
    • 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...
      • by Pope (17780) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @02:45PM (#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.
    • by mpe (36238) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:25PM (#21753252)
      Now with 10 times the explosive power.

      How long before laptop batteries get classified as "munitions"?
      • by GospelHead821 (466923) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:33PM (#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.
      • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:47PM (#21753592)
        Actually energy contents is already higher than some explosives. The current limitation is that you cannot releaste the energy in a short burst.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        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.
        • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @02:41PM (#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.
          • by OwnedByTwoCats (124103) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @03:14PM (#21754758)

            Gasoline 9,700 12,200

            ...
            Secondary LiOn Polymer 300 130 - 1200
            Do the rest of the math.

            300 * 10 is 3000, so gasoline still stores three times as much potential chemical energy as the battery. But converting chemical potential energy into motion through an internal combustion engine is about 30% efficient, while power electronics and electric motors net between 80 and 95% efficient.

            • Battery: 3000 * 0.8 = 2400
            • Gasoline: 9,700 * 0.3 = 2910
            so getting batteries to within 80% of gasoline (i.e. same volumetric energy density as a vehicle fuel as ethanol) really is revolutionary.


            If these Li-Ion batteries are on the lighter end of the scale, the energy/weight figures could be extrordinary.

            • Battery: 1200 * 10 (improvement from research) * 0.8 (efficiency) = 9600 watt-hours traction per kilogram
            • Gasoline: 12200 * 0.3 (efficiency) = 3660 watt-hours traction per kilogram.
            This is breakthrough territory.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Hal_Porter (817932)
              Hmm, fair point.

              I got 20% efficiency for 4 stroke gasoline engines [wikipedia.org], vs 85% for brushless DC electric motors. [wikipedia.org]

              Actually there's an article here that quotes the density of the new battery as 3000Wh/kg. [sciencedirect.com]. 12200 as an energy density for old Lithium Ion batteries is completely bogus by the way.

              So
              12,200*0.2 = 2440
              vs
              3000*0.85 = 2550

              Not as good as you said since the battery still has 4x worse energy density but you're right that engine efficiency makes up for it.
          • If this new battery is 10x as efficient it is still 3x worse than gasoline.

            No argument here, but consider how poorly we make use of energy from gasoline ( at least in cars, trucks, etc ). My understanding of electric motors is that not only do they convert energy to torque much more efficiently, but they don't need a transmission, differential or CV joints ( the latter two if you're using one motor per drive wheel ), which lose quite a bit of torque to heat/sound.

            Just saying. Batteries might suck in co

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by rs79 (71822)
              "Batteries might suck in comparison to gasoline"

              Ah yes but. In a car, an electric car, it had one property no gas power car can ever have - you can recharge it with sunlight. I work at home and I don't go on daily commutes. Some weeks I may go to the store a few times and that's it. A moderate solar array might in some cases eliminate or at least diminish the need to plug the car in and pay for electricty. There's a certain appeal to that that in some sense overrides all other desirable features in a car.

              No
        • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @02:54PM (#21754488) Homepage
          Well, let's go with 200 Wh/kg for conventional li-ion batteries. Thios would be 2000 Wh/kg, i.e., 7.2 MJ/kg. Gasoline has an energy density of about 45 MJ/kg.

          Of course, you're comparing the energy density of the stored electricity, not of the chemical energy of the battery as a whole, which isn't really fair.

          Anyways, let's look at vehicle range. The gasoline has 6.25 times the energy density, but only burns at 25-30% efficiency in the engine. The charge/discharge of lithium-ion batteries is almost lossless. The motor would be 85-90% efficient. Looks like, kilogram per kilogram, gasoline gets twice the range. On the other hand, there are other practical considerations -- namely, the fact that electric motors are much smaller and lighter than an internal combustion engine. I wouldn't be surprised if you could shave a hundred, hundred fifty kilograms off the engine/motor mass by switching from ICE to electric. If you filled this remaining space with batteries, that'd be ~900MJ, the equivalent of 20 gallons of gasoline, extra for the electric vehicle. Factor in a 12 gallon gas tank that's being replaced by electric (that's what my Saturn has, so that's the number I'm using), that's the equivalent of 26 gallons of range for the electric and 12 gallons of range for the gasoline vehicle. The electric goes over twice as far. But it gets even better, as you'll only get your optimum 25-30% gasoline efficiency at the optimal RPM; they perform poorly at low speeds, for example. Electrics perform well over a wide range. Then you need to factor in that the electric has all of the benefits of hybrid vehicles already there -- regenerative braking, no waste at stop lights, and so forth. All in all, I'd expect around three times more range with an electric using batteries like these than you get in a gasoline vehicle. And to top it all off, given that they're using nanowires, the surface are will be incredible, so the charge time should be very fast -- just a few minutes.

          If this is legit, and if there aren't any degradation or safety problems that sneak up on them, when it comes out, gasoline vehicles can be expected to go "extinct" quite quickly. Who *wouldn't* want to be able to drive a thousand, perhaps even two thousand miles on a single charge, at a price of 1-2 cents per mile?
          • by eth1 (94901) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @03:47PM (#21755174)
            There are still a few problems, though.

            The first is heat from charging. If you use your figure of 900MJ, and charging is 90% efficient, that means you have to dissipate 90MJ of heat during the charge. 1J = 1Ws, so 90MJ is 25kWh of heat energy. That's 1kW if charging takes one day, or 4kW if it takes 6 hours. That's probably way too much heat for the battery/car to take. (assuming my math/conversions are correct!) Of course, that only applies if you're charging all at once. Charge time wouldn't be as much of an issue if you charge whenever you're not using the car.

            The other issue is that we (US) have nowhere near the generation capacity to handle a nation full of electric cars. We'd have to start building a lot of extra capacity, seeing as how we sometimes have a hard time keeping up with demand as it is. On the other hand, everyone having a huge battery plugged into the grid could do a lot to help smooth out peak demand.
            • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @04:01PM (#21755382) Homepage
              . If you use your figure of 900MJ, and charging is 90% efficient

              There's your problem right there. Li-ion batteries have a charge efficiency of around 99.9% [batteryuniversity.com]; you're two orders of magnitude off. Even if you go off by an order of magnitude and say 99% efficient, assuming a specific heat of 1J/g*C, with 7.2MJ/kg, that's only a 72 degree rise in temperature over 5 minutes or so (240W of heat), which a cooling system could easily manage (your computer case fan probably dissipates more heat than that). With the actual 99.9% efficiency, it's a 7.2 degree rise in temperature and 24W of heat, respectively.

              The other issue is that we (US) have nowhere near the generation capacity to handle a nation full of electric cars.

              Another widespread false concern. The fact is that the US has significant surplus generation capacity at night, more than enough to begin the transition (it's not like everyone collectively throws out their vehicles and switches at once). Furthermore, it's much *cheaper* to build new electricity production infrastructure than it is to produce gasoline production infrastructure. And, for gasoline-powered cars, you have to keep producing new gasoline-production infrastructure even when gasoline demand remains constant since oil fields run dry. You're just replacing one type of infrastructure demand with another -- one that's easier to meet to boot.
      • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Total_Wimp (564548)
        I doubt you'll have to worry about this for awhile. While everyone is looking at this as longer battery life, the more probable initial use will be to make smaller, lighter batteries with the same, or just a little more, power as you're currently used to.

        This is going to be expensive in the beginning. Companies will be looking for a way to leverage the new tech without the battery becoming more expensive than all the other parts combined. But they might still have an advantage without breaking the bank t
    • by MightyYar (622222)
      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: (Score:2, Funny)

      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.
    • by arivanov (12034) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:31PM (#21753360) Homepage
      No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There is always a boom tomorrow. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEsFB2GPy24 [youtube.com]
      • by Xentor (600436)
        Even without clicking the youtube link... Lieutenant-Commander Ivanova... Babylon 5. Good quote :)
    • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info AT devinmoore DOT com> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:37PM (#21753454) Homepage Journal
      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.
    • by cashman73 (855518)
      In a related story, the TSA has now banned laptop computers from all commercial flights in the USA.
    • by ByOhTek (1181381)
      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 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jimbo3123 (320148) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:22PM (#21753222) Homepage
    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.
    • by Amouth (879122)
      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....
      • by MightyYar (622222)
        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 (Score:5, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:51PM (#21753658) Journal
          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.
          • by Amouth (879122)
            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..
            • by MightyYar (622222)
              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: (Score:3, Informative)

            by TooMuchToDo (882796)
            Li-Ion batteries degrade over time no matter what, no matter how charged you keep them. Their shelf life begins when they're manufactured and starts to degrade every calendar month.
      • Lithium ion batteries don't suffer from the "memory effect". You're thinking of NiCd batteries.
        • by gweihir (88907)
          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.
        • by ByOhTek (1181381)
          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 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan.jared@NosPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:31PM (#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.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        "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 gather
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rei (128717)
          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].
  • by farnsaw (252018) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:28PM (#21753308) Homepage
    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.

    • by geekoid (135745)
      don't you mean they can count TO 1023 on their hands?

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

      1111111111 = 1023

      • by Xentor (600436) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:55PM (#21753708) Homepage
        Careful, or he'll give ya the 132 salute.
      • by farnsaw (252018)
        Yes, but they are aware of the overflow / wraparound when it happens, therefore they can count to 1024.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Stormcrow309 (590240)

        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by InvalidError (771317)

      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

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by eharvill (991859)

        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.
    • by grumpyman (849537)
      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.
    • "Computer Scientists can count to 1024 on their fingers" (non-mutant, non-mutilatated, human computer scientists)

      Uh, shouldn't that be count to 1023?

    • 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 i

    • by teslatug (543527)
      I can just see [youtube.com] those kinds of phones being popular.
  • 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>

  • patent (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ageforce_ (719072)
    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.)
    • by geekoid (135745)
      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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @02:06PM (#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...
    • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @02:09PM (#21753902) Homepage

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

    • by cmaxx (7796)
      Bad if he hadn't found anything, yes, but if he'd found 50,000 ways that didn't work, that would've been fine. Seriously. Even better if he'd published a report of some kind about all the things that hadn't worked and why.

      As for why he gets the patent, well, inventors are named on patents, that's pretty much how it works, but the rights to exploit the patent are probably more complex, and possibly equitable, depending on all the factors cited.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by xebra (140155)
      Obviously you never read any of your employment contracts :). I have a relative with a number of patents for steps used to refine petroleum. Obviously he's not a billionaire just because the technologies in his patents are used during the processing of a quarter billion gallons of oil each day!

      "The Employee hereby assigns and transfers to the Company without further consideration his entire right, title and interest in and to all Inventions developed while in the employ of the Company."

      Sign on the dotted
  • '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 t
    • 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 pri
    • The 'tipping point', IMO, is if you could get 300-400 miles out of it (enough for a 2-way commute or a very decent drive), and recharge it quickly (10 minutes or less) for longer road trips.

      That's the harder part, I would think. As a commuter vehicle, I would LOVE to be able to trickle-charge a car in my garage at night and never have to visit a fuel station except on longer road trips, though.
  • by TopSpin (753) * on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:39PM (#21753482) Journal
    A short but more technical story found here [rsc.org].

    • 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
    • So they've demonstrated 10 charge/discharge cycles? Well, you have to start somewhere, but that shows how early this news is in the possible development of a commercial product. Something to keep an eye on, though.
  • by iamacat (583406) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:42PM (#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.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @02:09PM (#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]
    • But you need the power to make sure that you're running a legit copy of Windows.
    • by bogie (31020)
      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?
    • by Chirs (87576)
      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.
    • by farnsaw (252018)
      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
  • 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 li
  • 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.
    • by Chirs (87576)
      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.
  • by Sitnalta (1051230) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:47PM (#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.
    • by quickpick (1021471) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @02:15PM (#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...
  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:57PM (#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.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      "...Palo Alto & up to Standford."

      After which they will realize they where lost and find their way to Stanford. ;)

  • 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

    • by vidarh (309115)
      Many color printers will either make you choose between inserting a color cartridge or a black cartridge and will mix the colors to get black if you have the color cartridge in, or they will have space for both and again mix the colors if you don't have a black cartridge fitted. Yeah, it's wasteful, and expensive.
    • 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.

      That'll be the tracking dots:

      Clicky! [eff.org]
    • by GreggBz (777373)
      Whoa, big Deja Vu. For a second I thought it was 10AM EST again. [slashdot.org]
  • 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.
  • As seen in The Matrix.

The person who's taking you to lunch has no intention of paying.

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