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Nanotech Anode Promises 10X Battery Life 193

Posted by kdawson
from the all-day-laptop dept.
UNIMurph sends word out of Stanford University that researchers have discovered a way to increase battery life tenfold by using silicon nanowires. Quoting News.com: 'It's not a small improvement,' [lead researcher Yi] Cui said. 'It's a revolutionary development.' Citing a research paper they wrote, published in Nature Nanotechnology, Cui said the increased battery capacity was made possible though a new type of anode that utilizes silicon nanowires. Traditional lithium ion batteries use graphite as the anode. This limits the amount of lithium — which holds the charge — that can be held in the anode, and it therefore limits battery life... 'We are working on scaling up and evaluating the cost of our technology,' Cui said. 'There are no roadblocks for either of these.'"
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Nanotech Anode Promises 10X Battery Life

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  • Good deal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alshithead (981606) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @01:30AM (#22062952)
    Now, if we can see the same kind of improvements in electricity transmission, solar power electricity generation, and larger scale electricity storage, we might be able to really reduce fossil based fuels and CO2 emissions.
    • Re:Good deal (Score:5, Informative)

      by BlueParrot (965239) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @02:15AM (#22063184)

      solar power electricity generation


      No , please, stop right there. Here, let me put it into perspective for you:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:World_energy_usage_width_chart.svg [wikipedia.org]

      For those too lazy to follow the link.
      World energy consumption:
      Oil: 37%
      Coal: 25%
      Gas: 23%
      Nuclear: 6%
      Biomass: 4%
      Hydro: 3%
      Solar heat: 0.5%
      Wind: 0.3%
      Geothermal: 0.2%
      Biofuels: 0.2%
      Photovoltaics: 0.02%

      WORLDWIDE photovoltaic production is about 13GW. A single nuclear reactor or coal fired powerplant can produce 1-2 GW. Solar couldn't even power a tiny european country with populations of a few millions. Let alone China, India, the US, Russia etc ... Even if you doubled worldwide solar cell output every five years, you would have to keep up such an exponential growth for 50 years just to replace 20% of our CURRENT energy demand. As China and India industrialize this will increase.

      The most probable ways to reduce CO2 emissions from our energy generation are:
      -Carbon capture and storage
      -Expanding Nuclear power
      -Increased use of Gas in place of Coal ( gas contains a lot of hydrogen and hence emits less CO2 per kwH than does coal ).

      Ironically these are all measures which are fiercely opposed by Greenpeace et al, who instead want us to hope that wind and solar will save the day. At present production wind, solar and solar heat taken together produce about 0.82% of worldwide energy. To avoid a 2 C increase in global average temperature we need substantial cuts in CO2 emissions before 2050. Does anybody SERIOUSLY believe that photovoltaic / wind is up to the job?

      I mean for the love of god, electric cars are great in that they could let us use Nuclear power or plants equipped with carbon capture technology, but they will not be solar powered. Not within the foreseeable future at least.
      • Re:Good deal (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @02:37AM (#22063312) Homepage
        Since when does "what we have now" imply "what we'll have with the radical technology improvements that are presently occurring"? You do realize that not only are solar thermal prices dropping, but there have been some *major* advancements in the economics of photovoltaic systems. Silicon cells are typically profitable to sell at $4/W (and are currently selling at $5/W because of supply shortages). CIGS cells are profitable at $1/W. This is a major, major leap that'd make solar cheaper than coal almost everywhere in the world.

        Let's look at Nanosolar as an example. Their first plant, when at full capacity, will make them one of the biggest solar producers in the world (430 MW/year if I recall correctly). But this is just their first plant. Selling cells that are profitable at $1/W at nearly $5/W means they'll be profiting hand over fist, which means that investors will fight for the chance to throw money at them. How long do you think it'll take them to scale up with essentially unlimited venture capital? I'm betting not very long. They built their current facility with $100M raised just a year and a half ago, and they've already delivered their first product. Given that most of that money had to go toward simply commercializing their laboratory-scale process, what sort of capacity do you think they could pull off with, say, the next $1B in cash? Dozens of GW/year? And Nanosolar is just one CIGS manufacturer among many. And there's CdTe, too. Unmet demand begs for a market solution. It's inevitable that it's going to be filled.

        Longer term, here's a crazy new tech for you to chew on: nanoantenna solar cells [inl.gov]. A completely different process than conventional cells, which use photons to knock electrons off a donor, these new cells are simply designed to receive solar energy in the same way that a larger antenna receives the several-orders-of-magnitude-longer wave radio signals. They should be able to be produced on a cheap reel-to-reel process like CIGS cells, yet they have the potential to be as much as 80% efficient, even receiving the infrared that the Earth emits at night.
        • Re:Good deal (Score:5, Informative)

          by BlueParrot (965239) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:11AM (#22063510)

          Let's look at Nanosolar as an example. Their first plant, when at full capacity, will make them one of the biggest solar producers in the world (430 MW/year if I recall correctly). But this is just their first plant. Selling cells that are profitable at $1/W at nearly $5/W means they'll be profiting hand over fist, which means that investors will fight for the chance to throw money at them. How long do you think it'll take them to scale up with essentially unlimited venture capital? I'm betting not very long. They built their current facility with $100M raised just a year and a half ago, and they've already delivered their first product. Given that most of that money had to go toward simply commercializing their laboratory-scale process, what sort of capacity do you think they could pull off with, say, the next $1B in cash? Dozens of GW/year? And Nanosolar is just one CIGS manufacturer among many. And there's CdTe, too. Unmet demand begs for a market solution. It's inevitable that it's going to be filled.


          First of all, Nanosolar HOPES to make the cells at $1/W, they are nowhere near that cheap yet, and this is the price their marketing department HOPES to achieve. Secondly, that is the price for the cells without factoring in energy storage devices, energy conversion systems, servicing etc ... Thirdly, it is the price under optimal conditions, with perfectly aligned cells. In any real applications they will only be optimally aligned for a small part of the day, unless you intend to use expensive devices to track solar motion. They are also relying on indium, an element which is thought to become scarce due to increasing demand, and of course, mass-deployment of indium based solar cells would certainly push the price up. Finally, even if they were able to start producing these at competitive costs and at a large rate, you still have the problem that you will have to increase solar photovoltaic output by a factor of 1000 just to reach 20% of current energy demand.

          With most of nuclear reactors built in the west ending their licensing in about 2030 - 2040, Oil running low and gas prices rising due to low demand, it seems likely that nations will turn to coal. This effectively implies you will either have to do carbon capture and storage or start building nuclear plants very soon unless you want to have your greenhouse gas emissions rocket due to massive deployments of coal plants. To think that solar will replace Coal, Oil, Gas AND nuclear within 30-40 years amidst the east rapidly increasing the energy intensity of their economies, is wishful thinking at best.

          But no, we're going to gamble on some hypothetical solar breakthrough. Despite the fact that no realistic way to overcome the problems with intermittent supply, that they don't produce energy at night, diffuse and limited output, as well as the high price, having been demonstrated. If you think the press release about what one heavily subsidized solar company "hopes to achieve" negates any of my arguments, then I'd say you are naive at best.

          As for nano-antenna solar cells, again, you are talking several decades of development at the very least. They won't save us from the energy gap that is likely to occur within 20-30 years, and they only deal with the costs incurred by the cells themselves, they don't address the cost of storing and converting the energy.
          • Re:Good deal (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:43AM (#22063674) Homepage
            First of all, Nanosolar HOPES to make the cells at $1/W, they are nowhere near that cheap yet, and this is the price their marketing department HOPES to achieve.

            And your information comes from? Nowhere, that's where, because they're not sold on the open market yet, so claims like "they are nowhere near that cheap yet" are complete BS. All of their capacity is currently going to a German municipal plant. Secondly, all of the CIGS companies are giving numbers in the same ballpark, as are the CdTe companies.

            Secondly, that is the price for the cells without factoring in energy storage devices, energy conversion systems, servicing etc

            Duh. That's part of a general solar economics calculation. Only an idiot would just multiply $1/W times the desired number of watts. A large, batteryless installation in Anchorage, AK of nanosolar cells gets a 30 year IRR of 7-8% [daughtersoftiresias.org]. In Las Vegas, it's more like 13-14%.

            Thirdly, it is the price under optimal conditions, with perfectly aligned cells. (and on, and on...)

            (Dragnet theme)Duh, duh duh duh. Duh, duh duh duh, duh!(/Dragnet theme)

            Do you think we're idiots? What's next? "Third, the cells only produce power when the sun is visible. Fourth, you need to have wires to conduct the power. Fifth, you need "humans", who can use the power...."

            They are also relying on indium, an element which is thought to become scarce due to increasing demand, and of course, mass-deployment of indium based solar cells would certainly push the price up.

            Indium is more common than silver, is easier to recover than silver (because of its close interrelationship with zinc ores), and CIGS cells use a miniscule amount of it (nanoscale-thickness coatings). Indium's current high price is more related to a lack of demand for it before LCD TVs started using it in bulk; this led to a few of the world's only indium recovery circuits shutting down without new circuits replacing them at other mines. It's not a problem [indium.com]. It only takes a few years to ramp up production.

            Finally, even if they were able to start producing these at competitive costs and at a large rate, you still have the problem that you will have to increase solar photovoltaic output by a factor of 1000 just to reach 20% of current energy demand.

            Huh? Did you ignore my post, above, where it already addressed this?

            With most of nuclear reactors built in the west ending their licensing in about 2030 - 2040, Oil running low and gas prices rising due to low demand

            Whaa? For one, nuclear is making a serious comeback in the US. Two, oil is not running low. Light sweet crude is, but light sweet crude != world petroleum production capability. Venezuelan super heavy crude and Canadian bitumen syncrude are taking off. Third, the demand for gasoline has been rising constantly year to year. Are you confusing the annual demand fluctuations with year to year growth in consumption? Demand is always lowest in the winter, highest in the summer.

            [quote]But no, we're going to gamble on some hypothetical solar breakthrough.[/quote]

            Hypothetical? Yeah, about two dozen companies, some of which have been selling them in smaller volume for years, is "hypothetical". What's next -- are CFLs hypothetical as well?

            [quote]Despite the fact that no realistic way to overcome the problems with intermittent supply, that they don't produce energy at night, diffuse and limited output, as well as the high price, having been demonstrated.[/quote]

            In the pacific northwest, and to a lesser degree the west coast as a whole, energy storage is a non-issue. The west relies a lot on hydro power, and hydro pairs perfectly with solar (it already has a low capacity factor, so there's no additional economic cost to the hydro producers). Even in the east, solar alone with no storage can eliminate the p
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by olman (127310)
              Even if you want to use solar for everything, most pricing I've seen for bulk energy storage is about 4c/kWh to the consumer. With solar this cheap, that's affordable.

              On what exactly? Hot air?

              We do not have very good ways of storing energy. Battery technology sucks balls, especially on industrial grade. Sure, you could use the energy to make methanol for example and burn that later but that's not terribly efficient process. Growin plants and all that. Hydrogen has a nasty habit of evaporating through solid
              • by Rei (128717)
                On what exactly?

                Compressed air and/or pumped water storage. The prices I've seen listed are about 4c/kWh.

                Have you factored in the costs of powering regions which do not get much sunlight during winter months and/or do not have sunny weather in general?

                With $1/W solar cells, it doesn't really matter. I'm not sure you understand how cheap that is. Even solar power Alaska comes out cheaper than coal with $1/W cells.

                You take a $/W number that everyone knows is unrealistic unless you've got orbital solar pane
                • by olman (127310)
                  Compressed air and/or pumped water storage. The prices I've seen listed are about 4c/kWh.

                  Fair enough. But again you're omitting some key facts, are you not?

                  To start on the water reservoir business, you have to put about a billion USD on the table and that's if you're building the damn thing in China dozen years ago!? The chinese plant [power-technology.com] has storage capacity of around 9300MWh (13000MWh gravity potential at 70% efficiency). That takes 8 million cubic meters of water pumped 600 meters up. Or about 200m by 40m by
          • You missed the parent's point. While his numbers for Nanosolar were off, they've already sold out their first year of production. And they're going to sell out the next two years of production very quickly. Once they bring up a new factory, production speed is only going to increase.
          • Re:Good deal (Score:5, Informative)

            by ThreeGigs (239452) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @05:03AM (#22064112)
            First of all, Nanosolar HOPES to make the cells at $1/W, they are nowhere near that cheap yet, and this is the price their marketing department HOPES to achieve

            Minor information injection here:
            Nanosolar _is_ making solar 'sheets' now... no wishful thinking involved.
            They've contracted with a German company who has ordered roughly 600 megawatts worth of sheets ....at.... drumroll please..... 90 cents per watt.

            The sheets will be mounted in panels in a factory near Berlin, and used in Germany, which because of favorable laws requiring utilities to buy back power from customers, is experiencing a HUGE demand for renewable energy sources for the homeowner.
            • by msevior (145103)

              Minor information injection here:
              Nanosolar _is_ making solar 'sheets' now... no wishful thinking involved.
              They've contracted with a German company who has ordered roughly 600 megawatts worth of sheets ....at.... drumroll please..... 90 cents per watt.


              Do you have a reference for this? It is very interesting news.
              • I used google to search for result (I refuse to use google as a verb) and came up with this: http://www.celsias.com/2007/12/23/nanosolar-update-first-panels-now-shipping [celsias.com]
                • by msevior (145103)
                  While it may well cost Nanoslar 90 cents per watt to make these panels, I don't think they would sell them too far under the current commercial price of $4-$5 per watt. If there is demand at $4 why sell them for $1?

                  In any case this is incredibly good news. If they can make 430 MW of product per year at $4 million per MW from a $100 million dollar facility, that gives them well over $1 Billion per year to expand production. So in 2011 they may have 10 plants in full operation and another 100 under constructi
                  • by smaddox (928261)
                    I think CIGS are currently less durable than single crystal SI cells. I could be wrong on that though.
                    • by Rei (128717)
                      There's nothing about the CIGS chemistry itself that's inherently less durable. On the contrary, since it's flexible, it can't break like silicon. On the other hand, CIGS cells can be put on any kind of substrate, and these can be less durable than other substrates. You print your cell on thin plastic, and of course it won't last as long as something with a heavy steel backing and a thick plate of glass on the front. In Nanosolar's case, if I recall correctly, they use a semi-flexible aluminum backing.
          • by pev (2186)

            Despite the fact that no realistic way to overcome the problems with intermittent supply, that they don't produce energy at night

            True yes, but then again we don't use as much energy at night either! e.g. in the UK :
            http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Data/Realtime/Demand/Demand8.htm [nationalgrid.com]

            With most of nuclear reactors built in the west ending their licensing in about 2030 - 2040, Oil running low and gas prices rising due to low demand, it seems likely that nations will turn to coal.

            Actually

      • You're aware Texas is on it's way to be generating almost 23,000GW (yeah, you read that correctly) in the next 3 years. Wind and solar are indeed up to the task.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Eivind (15695)
        As these things go though, "doubling every 5 years" is not ambitious at all, infact that is very VERY conservative and much less than the increase in production of PV currently taking place. It is, afterall, less than 15% of growth a year.

        The IEA PV trends report from 2003 estimated 20% growth a year for the next decade, but has since been revised upwards. Current trend is looking more like 25% growth in area produced year, which gives somewhat more than that in power generated because average efficiencies
      • by srussell (39342)

        -Expanding Nuclear power

        Aww, no, see... I saw a chart just like the one you linked to from 1910, and the percentage of Nuclear power used in the world was 0%. By your logic, this means that Nuclear power is utterly impractical and won't be able to produce enough energy for a small country, much less the world.

        Or did the fact that increasing the use of photovoltaics will consequently increase the percentages of photovoltaics on that chart escape you? What, exactly, did you think that that graph proved,

  • Sony (Score:2, Funny)

    by calebt3 (1098475)
    This is Sony's way of making a military-grade exploding battery.
    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @04:39AM (#22063988)
      During the Falklands "war", it was discovered that the British Ministry of Defence had managed to supply the Army with radios that used rechargeable batteries, but no battery chargers below brigade level.* The Army was reduced to using heliographs on some occasions.

      After the event, there were several studies of what to do about it. One suggestion was to make available lithium batteries as an alternative. The cells proposed were really quite big. After a few interesting incidents in testing, one of which had an engineer cowering behind a filing cabinet screaming "get that wire away from that thing", one REME officer suggested that with a simple piece of spring loaded steel, the cells could find an alternative use as emergency grenade substitutes. (Disappointingly, the actual solution proposed was to fit an internal fuse.)

      Given the energy density of this proposal, a simple micro-Sterling generator driven by sticks of dynamite might be safer in the briefcase.

      *The Ministry of Defence is kind of like the Pentagon, but without the competence.

  • OK... (Score:4, Funny)

    by All Names Have Been (629775) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @02:46AM (#22063386)
    "...There are no roadblocks for either of these."

    So quit with the jibber-jabber and make with the 50 hour laptop battery.
    • by tgd (2822)
      It'll never happen, at least in the US.

      There's TSA limits on the amount of lithium that can be in a battery. Using nanowires to hold more lithium will get you a bigger, yet far more dangerous battery you can't bring anywhere.

      Its not so good in cars either, given how dangerous lithium ion batteries are. I'd rather have a RTG or a box of dynamite in my car.
  • by Caspian (99221) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:04AM (#22063470)
    This technology sounds wonderful. I'd absolutely adore batteries to last ten times longer than they do at present. It would be amazing... imagine 20 or 30 hours of 'real life' battery life on a laptop instead of 2-3 hours. However, I'm really getting tired of stories on Slashdot that basically can be summarised as "Scientists promise [amazing product] using [amazing technology]". Nanotech, nuclear fusion, genetic engineering, micro-scale fission power plants, exotic materials... whatever. You know what? I'm sick of reading stories about theoretically possible things that might (but probably won't) make it into an actual product some time in the near future.

    Slashdot ought to have a section for "navel-gazing scientific speculation". Seriously, this sort of "we can make [x] perform [10, 100, 1000...] times better!" bullshit belongs right alongside the "in [10, 20, 50] years, everyone will be in flying cars!" type of crap which has filled Scientific American for, well, forever.

    It's 2008. We still don't have flying cars, practical nuclear fusion, fission-powered cars, or multi-petabyte holographic storage devices. In the real world, advances in technology are usually incremental and evolutionary in nature, or a serious tradeoff at best (As an example, the move underway from platter-based hard drives to solid-state hard drives, while revolutionary in nature, involves massive tradeoffs in price-per-gigabyte which are only slowly lessening). It took CD technology a decade or two to give way to a successor with 10 times the storage capacity (dual-layer DVD-R), and making bits smaller is (arguably) a lot easier than increasing energy density (barring the use of nuclear technology or other exotic things which-- again-- isn't realistically going to happen any time soon).

    So where's the "NotGonnaHappen" tag?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by giorgist (1208992)
      Hey hey lighten up. This is news for nerds. If you want to read about things that are on the market, go read ebay. It does get frustrating, but be critical and enjoy NEWS. Things are not simply evolutionary, things are changing increadably fast on the big picture. Step back and look just a couple of ago. The difference is evident. Each technology/science front is moving forward pretty fast. And all together are starting to tie in ... look at MEMS ... 2GB USB sticks for a couple of bucks, all the music and
    • by Rei (128717)
      You can learn the caveats to each tech if you're willing to do the research. In this case, the first caveat is cycle life. They want to get 1000 cycles out of it, and think they'll be able to. But if they can only get a dozen or cycles, this tech is dead in the water. If they can get 1000 cycles, they'll almost certainly be flooded with venture capital for commercializing it (or make a fortune selling it to an established company). Either way, commercialization will be attempted. Then there will be a
    • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @04:14AM (#22063850)

      It's 2008. We still don't have flying cars, practical nuclear fusion, fission-powered cars, or multi-petabyte holographic storage devices. In the real world, advances in technology are usually incremental and evolutionary in nature, or a serious tradeoff at best (As an example, the move underway from platter-based hard drives to solid-state hard drives, while revolutionary in nature, involves massive tradeoffs in price-per-gigabyte which are only slowly lessening). It took CD technology a decade or two to give way to a successor with 10 times the storage capacity (dual-layer DVD-R), and making bits smaller is (arguably) a lot easier than increasing energy density (barring the use of nuclear technology or other exotic things which-- again-- isn't realistically going to happen any time soon).

      It's 2008. We have extremely safe cars. We have practical, efficient nuclear fission (both for peaceful and weapons uses). We have the ability to store 1TB of data on a drive the size of a small cigar box. And don't forget that I can communicate from one side of the world to the other instantly either via fiber or satellite.

      True, we don't have earth-shattering technologies occur overnight (you point this out as well, that research takes time). But if you've noticed, the pace of research and breakthroughs has been increasing over the last 30-40 years. Different technologies build on each other. Faster microprocessors allow us to build hybrid cards and space vehicles. Genetic engineering opens a whole new world in biology.

      What I'm trying to get at is, don't be so pessimistic. This battery technology can and will be developed quickly. It's because we have few other practical options.

      • But if you've noticed, the pace of research and breakthroughs has been increasing over the last 30-40 years. Different technologies build on each other. Faster microprocessors allow us to build hybrid cards and space vehicles. Genetic engineering opens a whole new world in biology.

        Maybe the "problem" is that we've become so accustomed to rapid progress in science and engineering that we've started to take it for granted. Now, when advances occur as they do every day, they're more or less anticipated and thus capitalized into our expectations. The "wow" factor gets harder and harder to achieve, at least outside the immediate field where a breakthrough is made...

        • I completely agree. The bar keeps getting set higher and higher, so "regular" breakthroughs never really awe us anymore. It's less of a technological problem, and more of an sociological expectation problem though. =)
    • by mw22 (908270) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @04:23AM (#22063896)

      So where's the "NotGonnaHappen" tag?
      That's not going to happen.
    • by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @04:24AM (#22063904) Journal
      It's 2008. We still don't have flying cars, practical nuclear fusion, fission-powered cars, or multi-petabyte holographic storage devices. In the real world, advances in technology are usually incremental and evolutionary in nature, or a serious tradeoff at best (As an example, the move underway from platter-based hard drives to solid-state hard drives, while revolutionary in nature, involves massive tradeoffs in price-per-gigabyte which are only slowly lessening). It took CD technology a decade or two to give way to a successor with 10 times the storage capacity (dual-layer DVD-R), and making bits smaller is (arguably) a lot easier than increasing energy density (barring the use of nuclear technology or other exotic things which-- again-- isn't realistically going to happen any time soon).

      Flying cars don't need flying drivers, they need driving pilots. There are about 650,000 pilots in the United States with a certificate of Private Pilot or better. (the minimum license necessary to take more than 1 passenger in a flying vehicle) Compared to the population of 300 MILLION people, and you find that there are an awful few people who could "drive" a flying car. You find the economics of scale that will work at this level. Certainly, Detroit won't. Flying isn't the same as driving. There are no roads, and you have to pay careful attention to long-established procedures designed to avoid situations like running out of gas. (a minor inconvenience in a car, potentially fatal in a plane if you aren't well trained to handle it) I hate to diss flying, since I'm a pilot by hobby, and I love my hobby. But the requirements to pilot are significantly greater than the requirements to drive.

      Nuclear Fusion is widely available. Look up. (you have to go outside to see it - it's called the "sun") As a source for electricity, it's coming at prices comparable to coal [slashdot.org] which is the cheapest non-renewable form of energy today in the USA.

      Data storages has generally followed Moore's law, with a doubling time of about 18 months. What more do you want? I remember when a 100 MB HDD was big. Now, a little over 2 decades later, I routinely transfer files bigger than that all around the world via the Internet, and save to a flash disk the size of my thumb that requires no external power source, while my LAPTOP hard disk is 2,500 MB in size. I won't highlight my workstation/home-server with > 3 TB of storage.

      Amazing!

      Try using a 10 year old computer sometime. You'll be amazed at just how far we've really come.

      And, technology is advancing on ALL fronts.

      I recently added on to my home, doubling its size. Along with that came new regulations for insulation, higher-efficiency heating/cooling unit, insulation, double-paned windows, etc. I DOUBLED the size of my home, but my heating/cooling bill is about HALF what it used to be. Progress? Suffice it to say that the money I'm saving on my utility bill easily beats the monthly cost of the financed retrofit upgrades to my original home! In other words: it would be cheaper to buy the upgrades to an existing 100 year old home to get these improvements than to keep using whatever you had in the first place.

      I drive a 10 year-old Saturn. It gets 30 MPG fully loaded at 90 MPH, quietly, with air conditioning, decent radio, and air bags. Back in the 1980s, I drove a VW diesel Rabbit that did about the same at the same speed. It was noisy, shook lots, had an AM-only radio, and didn't have A/C. Relative prices (inflation adjusted) makes the Saturn CHEAPER than the VW Rabbit. Hello progress ?!?

      I use CFL lights throughout my home. Over their lifetimes, they are cheaper than incandescents in replacement costs alone, and 5 of these things use less electricity than a SINGLE incandescent bulb. I can light up my whole house for what it used to cost to turn on the porch light. I've banished incandescents from my home. And, I'm still not particularly good at turning
      • Where's the "proves his point" tag?

        Slow, predictable advances in efficiency? Yawn. That's exactly the kind of "incremental and evolutionary" advances he spoke of. Meh. When did technology become so boring?
      • I think your parent poster doesn't realize how long it takes to turn a basic scientific discovery into a consumer product. There is a ton of work to do: understanding the phenomenon, optimizing conditions, designing a device, patenting, building a manufacturing plant, working out failures and inefficiencies, licensing, marketing, and getting the cost low enough to be affordable outside of military and space applications.

        Before I became a scientist and engineer myself I would have thought a couple years wou
    • The problem of the "flying car" is not technological, it's economic and societal. We already have Piper Cubs, Cessnas and so on.

      Given the cost of energy, do you really want to pay for the cost to fly a flying car? I don't think energy is going to get any cheaper over the next century. Just the gas to fly a single prop aircraft is $45/hr, not counting all the other maintenance costs, and the craft can only go about twice as fast as legal highway speed. Do you really want to deal with sky rage?
    • by mgblst (80109)
      You know, for stories I am not interested in, I generally ignore them by not clicking on the link.

      Look some people want to hear what research is going on, what is at the cutting edge. These are things we don't hear about in the normal media. If you just want product deliveries, wait around for the Macworld or CES discussions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nmg196 (184961) *
      Point accepted, but some technologies DO come to market and work out OK in the end.

      1. I would never have believed when I was at university exactly ten years ago, that in 2008, I would have a more powerful processor in my *telephone* than I had in my desktop computer I took to uni to study Computer Science with.
      2. I would never have believed ten years ago that I could get 4 GIGABYTES of non-volatile memory in something the same size as my little fingernail (MicroSD) for a few pounds off eBay.
      3. I also bet my
      • by dylan_- (1661)

        On the other hand there are some other surprises. If you expand the old graphs of PC processor clock speeds, we should have 12GHz CPUs now, but we don't. Clock speeds stopped increasing about 4 years ago. Processors are still faster due to architectural changes, faster bus speeds and more cores, but clock speeds are exactly the same if not slower than they were a few years back.

        I think the growth in computing power has remained fairly close to the mark though. Last review I saw for a Core 2 Duo had a benchm

  • some more (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Atreide (16473)
    Nanowires Boost Laptop Battery Life to 20 Hours
    http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/12/19/169259 [slashdot.org]
  • (although we have heard this before)

    Nano-technology . . . last I heard, not the easiest stuff to engineer in. Nope - can't find too many qualified workers on street-corners. 'quipment ain't at the local machine shop.

    Erm, even if this isn't just another load of vapor, just how much will these things cost? and how do you mass-produce 'em?

    Oh, and we've heard this whole "new technology discovered which promises blah." We didn't need to hear it twice.

  • Why is graphite used as an anode material? What does it offer ? I was just reading some cool articles on how to make electricity from sewage ( http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/MicrobialFuelCells/ [yahoo.com] ) and thinking this. I read articles where they similarly talk about little 'whiskers' or cilia that bacteria have in relation to this sewage-to-voltage idea and wonder if it's all related somehow.

    Yea, I am starting to turn into a biochemistry hacker. Just imagine what my basement will smell like now...ha ha ha
  • http://www.solarnetwork.net/ [solarnetwork.net] is an app that hopes for this - but bigger and cheaper storage would help with the intermittent nature of these 2 power sources. does anyone think that affordable battery capacity could increases the way hard drive capacity did over the last 10 years? 1997 I think I was installing 8GB drives in a machine maybe? maybe even 4GB drives for laptops? Today it's easily 10 times that size on average.
  • As that technique stores a lot more energy in the same volume, I would imagine that a lot more energy will come out if something goes wrong with the battery.

    This could get interesting later..
  • by Twinbee (767046) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @08:18AM (#22065040) Homepage
    Interview with Dr. Cui, here [gm-volt.com].
  • researchers have discovered a way to increase battery life tenfold...said the increased battery capacity

    So which is it, life, or capacity? As I know those terms:

    Life: the number of times the battery can be recharged to some approximation of its original capacity.

    Capacity: The amount of energy, think amp/hours at the rated voltage, that the battery can deliver.

    So does this battery provide 10X as many recharge cycles in service as normal batteries, or does it deliver 10X as much energy per volume or

  • The Slashdot summary correctly draws from the news.com article, but the news.com article is mis-reporting this news. It is not battery life that is being discussed but rather energy density. Capacity has never referred to battery life. The Nature Nanotechnology journal article in question ( abstract [nature.com], fulltext [nature.com], pdf [nature.com] - for some reason they are all freely downloadable) reports that their Si nanowire anode has a little more than 10 times the capacity of common graphite anodes, and they have achieved that in ch

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