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Power Portables Hardware

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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  • 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?
  • some more (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Atreide (16473) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:11AM (#22063508)
    Nanowires Boost Laptop Battery Life to 20 Hours
    http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/12/19/169259 [slashdot.org]
  • by mmell (832646) <mike.mell@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:14AM (#22063528)
    (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.

  • 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
  • by FriedmannSolution5 (950021) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:54AM (#22063754)
    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.
  • by mrcaseyj (902945) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @04:14AM (#22063838)
    The Wikipedia article on Energy Density [wikipedia.org] lists the energy density of lithium batteries with nanowires at about 6MJ/kg and the energy density of TNT at about 4MJ/kg. And unlike butter or gasoline or some other things, I think the lithium battery has the oxidizer in the package (though maybe not right in the molecule like TNT). I don't think they're going to let you take many of these on the plane with you.
  • 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.

  • Re:Dupe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JonathanR (852748) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @06:11AM (#22064432)

    So basically... you're never, ever going to see a 'gas station' for electric cars. They'll always be charged for long periods at home, or at 'charging garages'.
    Which wouldn't really matter too much, since most people (who commute) will leave their car parked someplace for an extended period. For lengthy car trips, a trailer-mounted fossil-fuel powered generator could supplement the battery charge, and be available on a hire basis.
  • Re:Dupe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fadir (522518) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @06:46AM (#22064600)
    Maybe you take the wrong approach to "charge" a car.

    What about standard, pre-charged batteries that you simply swap at the "gas" station instead of really charging the car? This way the whole process can be done in the same amount of time than filling up gasoline.
    This is not even to complicated. You more or less rent the battery from the respective company and return it when it's empty (just to exchange it for a fully charged one).

    The "gas" station has all the time in the world to charge the empty batteries, replace/repair faulty ones, etc.

    Isn't that a more logical (and much safer) solution to the problem?
  • Re:Good deal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by olman (127310) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @07:41AM (#22064840)
    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 steel. Flyweels are right out for GWh class storage as well.

    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? Are we shipping pressurized hydrogen on megatankers now?

    You take a $/W number that everyone knows is unrealistic unless you've got orbital solar panel exposed to sunlight 24/7 in hard vacuum. Then you go and compare the cost directly with coal that's guaranteed power when you need it at a known, stable efficiency. That's cute. Or intellectually dishonest. One of the two.

     
  • Re:Dupe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:03AM (#22065850) Homepage
    Who cares if things get reported more than once. It's something that enough people thought was interesting that they thought it should be posted. Obviously some people want to discuss it. If you've already read the story, and don't want to discuss it any more, then that's fine, but there's lots of people who miss the story the first time around, and would like to discuss it.
  • Re:Dupe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @12:43PM (#22067908) Homepage
    Car batteries are not ~$40, 20lb propane tanks. Car batteries are $8k, several hundred pound devices bolted to the base of your car. Not going to happen.

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