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Power Science

"Spin Battery" Effect Discovered 234

Posted by kdawson
from the usual-caveats-apply dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the University of Miami and at the Universities of Tokyo and Tohoku, in Japan, have discovered a spin battery effect: the ability to store energy into the magnetic spin of a material and to later extract that energy as electricity, without a chemical reaction. The researchers have built an actual device to demonstrate the effect that has a diameter about that of a human hair. This is a potentially game-changing discovery that could affect battery and other technologies. Quoting: Although the actual device... cannot even light up an LED..., the energy that might be stored in this way could potentially run a car for miles. The possibilities are endless, Barnes said.'"
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"Spin Battery" Effect Discovered

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  • Achem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:27AM (#27181163)

    In THIS house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics. So you create a magnetic field, okay. Great. What's to prevent everything that's metallic in the area from moving around it, inducing current in it, and converting it into useless thermal energy? In other words -- what's preventing the battery from discharging? It might be good for a really high-capacity capacitor, but a battery? Batteries are long term.

  • Re:Achem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eternauta3k (680157) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:31AM (#27181239) Homepage Journal
    This is magic (a.k.a. science you shouldn't be hand-waving about)
  • Battery Aging (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChromaticDragon (1034458) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:35AM (#27181335)

    If this does prove to be useful for batteries, would it eliminate issues related to battery memory?

    It appears current rechargeable batteries "age" due to chemical reactions even if not used. Even more so due to repeated charge cycles.

    With no chemical reactions in play, does this mean people won't be forced to upgrade their phones simply because their battery is all but dead?

  • Re:Miles? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quickOnTheUptake (1450889) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:46AM (#27181493)

    Although the actual device... cannot even light up an LED..., the energy that might be stored in this way could potentially run a car for miles.

    This is one of the least informative lines ever included in a tech summary.
    Any energy storing tech that's worth it's salt can potentially run a car for miles. It's a question of efficiency and cost. I can potentially power a car for miles with twisted up rubberbands if I want to, but that isn't a breakthrough in the field.
    And of course "miles" tells nothing. Powering a car 3-5 miles is next to worthless. If they said 10's of miles we would know this had the potential to replace current tech or at least come close. If they said 100's of miles we would be facing a revolutionary improvement.

  • Re:Achem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:46AM (#27181497)

    Yeah you're right. I bet they totally never thought of that.

    When did "In THIS house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics" turn into some goddamn meme that gets pulled out when what you really mean is "I don't understand, can anyone please explain?"

    Because you're implying that these researchers are in some other house that doesn't obey the laws of physics, and that pointing this out is some revelation. Physicists from three institutions in two countries worked on this - are you really so stupid to think they don't know about thermodynamics? Really?

  • Re:Battery Aging (Score:2, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:48AM (#27181539)

    With no chemical reactions in play, does this mean people won't be forced to upgrade their phones simply because their battery is all but dead?

    No. There are still five year old children about, and they like taking the batteries out of things, then losing them in the toilet, the cat, the microwave... Trust me, the lack of chemical reactions doesn't diminish the need for replacement parts. -_-

  • ... and not all of it from the magnets themselves.

  • Why An LED... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LEX LETHAL (859141) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:55AM (#27181629)

    At least for the proof of concept stage, they might want to make a light source that consumes significantly less juice than an LED, and has a greater tolerance for fluctuation.

    From Wikipedia:

    "LEDs must be supplied with the voltage above the threshold and a current below the rating. This can involve series resistors or current-regulated power supplies." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Led#Disadvantages [wikipedia.org]

    Using an LED as an example of what this tiny power souce can't power seems futile at this point.

  • Re:Achem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LordKronos (470910) on Friday March 13, 2009 @12:04PM (#27181797) Homepage

    Yeah, but what sort of time scale are we talking about? Even current batteries discharge themselves over time.

  • by MoellerPlesset2 (1419023) on Friday March 13, 2009 @12:11PM (#27181921)
    That we're talking about _spin_ here, as in a property of subatomic particles corresponding to an 'intrinsic' angular momentum, not as in something that's physically 'spinning'. Electrons spin +1/2 or -1/2 and that's it. They can't stop. The energy here is being stored in the form of the _orientations_ of these spins, not the spin itself. What's keeping them that way is conservation of spin. Which is analogous to conservation of angular momentum. (Bound) Electrons can't change their spin state spontaneously. Which is why stuff which is magnetized stays that way for a long time. It's also the reason for phosphorescence. While I think what they've done here is undeniably pretty cool, in turning spin-state transitions into electricity directly, it's probably not going to create any real competition for conventional batteries, for fairly simple reasons. Batteries store electricity in the form of chemical redox states, which means adding/removing electrons from atoms/ions. The energy differences between spin states are typically an order of magnitude smaller than the energy difference between redox states.
  • Re:Achem (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @12:53PM (#27182581)

    That wasn't what the post said.

    The post didn't say "I wonder if they've taken X into account" or "They don't address the problem of Y" or "I wonder how this will fare in the real world"

    It doesn't even say "I'm a bit skeptical of this, as it seems to break thermodynamic laws".

    If they'd started the post with "I'm intrigued by the thermodynamics of this", I'd be sympathetic. What they said was a glib statement to the effect of "[The researchers] are not obeying thermodynamics". Thats a staggering assertion to make.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday March 13, 2009 @12:54PM (#27182597) Homepage

    surely?

    How can you be sure when they didn't post anything about the energy density? (Maybe there is some info in the original article, but I don't have access to the journal.

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Friday March 13, 2009 @01:08PM (#27182813) Homepage Journal
    Correct, just like a spiders web strand is stronger for its size than steel. I predict we will be building skyscrapers out of spider web about the same time as this new technology matures.
  • Re:Achem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday March 13, 2009 @01:11PM (#27182855)

    Because you're implying that these researchers are in some other house that doesn't obey the laws of physics, and that pointing this out is some revelation. Physicists from three institutions in two countries worked on this - are you really so stupid to think they don't know about thermodynamics? Really?

    There has been a lot of crap science put forward over the years -- that debacle with cold fusion being foremost in my mind. But research has been faked in every scientific field and in some cases hasn't been revealed for decades. Very smart people can make very elaborate ruses. I may not be a group of physicists from three institutions and in two countries, but I'm not an idiot either and I resent your implication that simply because I use an internet meme that cancels my original question. And of all the fields of science that have had faked research -- an awful lot of it has been over magnetism. Perpetual motion machines, in particular -- their inventors love using magnetism. So my skepticism is quite justified.

    You still haven't addressed the point of my post: Which is how does a device that stores an electrical charge (a battery) via magnetism not go dead based simply on inductive coupling with nearby metals?

  • Re:Achem (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @01:31PM (#27183159)

    There has been a lot of crap science put forward over the years -- that debacle with cold fusion being foremost in my mind. But research has been faked in every scientific field and in some cases hasn't been revealed for decades. Very smart people can make very elaborate ruses. I may not be a group of physicists from three institutions and in two countries, but I'm not an idiot either and I resent your implication that simply because I use an internet meme that cancels my original question. And of all the fields of science that have had faked research -- an awful lot of it has been over magnetism. Perpetual motion machines, in particular -- their inventors love using magnetism. So my skepticism is quite justified.

    In that case, you used a fucking stupid meme to get your point across!

    The first thing you said was not that skepticisim is justified. It wasn't even saying "I'm skeptical of this". It was saying that "Here, we obey thermodynamcs", implying that they don't.

    Do you see the that your first sentence doesn't give one HINT of skepticism? Its just denial.

    Skepticism is vital to science, as is constructive criticism. But it must be well informed skepticism. MUST. Otherwise you're just a creationist applied to another scientific field. If you're skeptical because you don't know any better, then that's not enough. For true, useful, skepticism you need to be an expert.

    This research is being published in Nature. If you can do a better job of peer-reviewing articles such as this (peer reviewing being one of the best techniques we have to guarantee scientific integrity), then please, build up a good publishing record of articles in the field, gain notoriety as an excellent researcher, and respond when they ask you to review a paper.

    At that point, with the knowledge and experience behind you, your skepticism will be important.

    All you did was say that they were wrong, under the guise of skepticism.

    You still haven't addressed the point of my post: Which is how does a device that stores an electrical charge (a battery) via magnetism not go dead based simply on inductive coupling with nearby metals?

    Thats my fucking point. And I'm utterly unable to answer your questions as I know nothing about the subject, but I'm glad you asked them. What you wanted was information about the process, because you were skeptical.

    What you said was:

    "In THIS house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics".

    That's like me reading a paper on evolution posted to slashdot and starting my comment "In THIS house, we obey the laws of God". That's not skepticism, thats saying they're wrong.

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