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Power Hardware Science

World's Smallest Battery Created 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the only-need-fifty-thousand-of-them-to-power-a-phone dept.
Zothecula writes "Because battery technology hasn't developed as quickly as the electronic devices they power, a greater and greater percentage of the volume of these devices is taken up by the batteries needed to keep them running. Now a team of researchers working at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies has created the world's smallest battery. 'It consists of a bulk lithium cobalt cathode three millimeters long, an ionic liquid electrolyte, and has as its anode a single tin oxide (Sn02) nanowire 10 nanometers long and 100 nanometers in diameter.' (Abstract in Science.) Although the tiny battery won't be powering next year's mobile phones, it has already provided insights into how batteries work and should enable the development of smaller and more efficient batteries in the future."
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World's Smallest Battery Created

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  • Incorrect (Score:3, Funny)

    by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @02:07AM (#34527602)

    the tiny battery won't be powering next year's mobile phones

    Clearly somebody hasn't seen the designs for the iPhone Femto.

    I'm sure I left them around here somewhere...

    Shit. I vacuumed them up.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      And sadly you just hit the nail on the head with what is wrong with today's mobile devices: that too many like Jobs look at them as fashion accessories instead of actually useful devices. I mean seriously, how many here would be happy for an extra couple of ounces added to their phone for an extra half a day or more of battery life? While our phones are being tasked with doing more and more the fashionista insist on giving us Kate Moss battery designs. Hell good luck finding a smart phone that doesn't have

      • "I really don't think a step back from the shrinkage is too much to ask"

        Especially since it's been done before [blogspot.com].
      • by peragrin (659227)

        and just where would you put that extra battery?

        it won't fit comfortably in your pocket anymore. so maybe a hip holster or purse. The whole idea of smaller phones is so that you can carry them without having to buy a holster for the damn things.

        And if it wasn't for jobs there would be no android or windows 7 you wouldn't have a smart phone you would have something like like the sidekick, or windows mobile 6. you need someone who not only thinks outside the box but is willing to actually build what was dr

        • by zmollusc (763634)

          I tested your theory by fastening my htc desire to an lg renoir with an elastic band. Still fits in my pocket and is not too heavy.
          I have used holsters before ( for crackberry and nokia n95 ), and found that it just put the phones in harm's way ( broke the crackberry's screen when I shoved a box with my hip ) and got tangled with seat belts and cables and door handles. Usually the holsters would spit the phone out onto the floor or the holster itself would fall in two.
           

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dziban303 (540095)
        I want my phone to be heavy enough that if I knock somebody down with it, they stay down.
      • And sadly you just hit the nail on the head with what is wrong with today's mobile devices: that too many like Jobs look at them as fashion accessories instead of actually useful devices.

        Really? Have you ever used an iPhone? It's one of the most useful phones ever made. It was certainly head and shoulders ahead of any other smartphone when it came out in terms of functionality; other companies have been playing catch-up since Jobs redefined the entire product category.

        I'm not saying iPhones are without f

        • I'm not saying iPhones are without flaws, but to say that they're designed merely as "fashion accessories" is totally wrong.

          Neither is he. What he's saying is that it's been Apple's general trend that, if function should come at the cost of form, that form tends to win.

          Personally, I got a high-capacity battery for my Droid Incredible. I loved the form factor of the handset as it shipped out of the box. However, the phone ate through battery life at a nearly unusable pace. The new battery pack brings the battery life to where it needs to be (i.e. still having a usable charge when I get home at night), but the touch-only phone is

  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @02:11AM (#34527616) Journal
    There is a reason why battery technology hasn't developed as fast as the technologies that use them; packing more and more energy into a given volume is a dangerous thing to do. When we pack a lot of energy in a (at least temporarily :-) stable state into a given volume, we tend to call those things "explosives". There's a fine line to tread here, and the more-efficient thing to do is reduce wastage than try to push battery abilities.

    We could always use a different form of energy storage, of course, but nuclear powered cellphones don't have customer appeal :)

    Simon
    • by fluffy99 (870997) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @02:55AM (#34527708)

      There is a reason why battery technology hasn't developed as fast as the technologies that use them; packing more and more energy into a given volume is a dangerous thing to do. When we pack a lot of energy in a (at least temporarily :-) stable state into a given volume, we tend to call those things "explosives". There's a fine line to tread here, and the more-efficient thing to do is reduce wastage than try to push battery abilities.

      They're only called explosives if they rapidly release that energy. NiCad batteries for example are more dangerous than alkaline batteries simply because a dead short would heat up very quickly. Same for Lithium with the added danger of the battery itself burning. Increasing energy density is still very desirable - for example not having the battery in a car weighing 2-tons by itself.

    • by Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @02:57AM (#34527710)

      There is a reason why battery technology hasn't developed as fast as the technologies that use them; packing more and more energy into a given volume is a dangerous thing to do.

      Not necessarily. What you want is something that is energy dense yet kinetically stable. Explosives are the opposite. Explosives deliver small amounts of power really fast. For example, the best explosives (according to wiki) are around 16 MJ/L and most around 3-5 MJ/L. Gasoline is at 34 MJ/L. If you want something that stores a lot of energy and won't explode, look no further than a pile of scrap aluminium. Aluminium stores roughly 83 MJ/L. You wouldn't be scared to have a ton of aluminium lying around behind your house, but that block could store enough energy to run your house for a year.

      • small amounts of power

        Should be energy.

      • by mu22le (766735) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @07:59AM (#34528286) Homepage Journal

        [...]. Aluminium stores roughly 83 MJ/L. You wouldn't be scared to have a ton of aluminium lying around behind your house, but that block could store enough energy to run your house for a year.

        How would you extract power from a ton of aluminum? (honest question :)

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rhywden (1940872)
          Burn it. It's hot enough that it will rip the oxygen from water, thus making it impossible to quench an aluminum fire with mere water.
          • by mu22le (766735)

            I think I have an even better idea: just annihilate it using a ton of anti aluminium, you can potentially extract the theoretical maximum energy (mc^2, the chemical binding energy is peanuts by comparison) from it.

        • Al-air fuel cells [wikipedia.org]. If could improve the technology to make it more efficient (its currently 40% aluminium to electricity), we could see a future where aluminium is a transportation fuel.
          • by kvezach (1199717)
            I like the direct borohydride fuel cell [wikimedia.org] idea, myself. It would use sodium borohydride as fuel, which is very energy dense [wikimedia.org] (and the fuel cell is efficient). The only problems are that converting the "waste" (sodium metaborate) back into borohydride is difficult, and that it requires 70'C temperatures to work.
        • by N Monkey (313423)

          [...]. Aluminium stores roughly 83 MJ/L. You wouldn't be scared to have a ton of aluminium lying around behind your house, but that block could store enough energy to run your house for a year.

          How would you extract power from a ton of aluminum? (honest question :)

          Thermite [wikimedia.org] is sometimes used for welding.

    • There is a reason why battery technology hasn't developed as fast as the technologies that use them; packing more and more energy into a given volume is a dangerous thing to do.

      That's not the reason. Keeping several dozen litres of easily flammable liquid in a tank and sending it to the engine by means of thin rubber tubing is dangerous too, but we do that all the time. If lithium batteries could be made with a much higher energy density than they have, they could always be placed inside armored containers - a bit like we do with LPG-powered vehicles. The reason is simply that the technology isn't there yet.

      When we pack a lot of energy in a stable state into a given volume, we tend to call those things "explosives".

      Not necessarily. If we could put as much research in LiFePO4 cells as it'

    • They'd sell like hotcakes in the middle east...
      • On a more serious note. Battery life span needn't be so poor from a physics POV. If my laptop battery life stayed at 9 hours I'd be very happy with it. The fact that it hovers around 45minutes today is upsetting. The same goes for cars. Possibly more so due to the huge investment. If they change the replacement cycle for batteries on electric cars from 2years to 10 it would be HUGE.
        • by Smidge204 (605297)

          What type of electric car battery needs to be replaced every 2 years? That's virtually unheard of. Even lead-acid batteries last longer than that. First generation NiMH EV packs have been on the road for 14 years and counting. The latest round of EVs coming to market in 2011 typically warranty the battery for 8 years.

          10 year battery life with 30% capacity loss or less after that time is easily achievable. Maybe you're abusing those laptop batteries more than you think.
          =Smidge=

          • One time I got hit by an SUV in the winter and twisted to land on my arms instead of my backpack to save my laptop.... So you may have something there. Made sure my computer made it to post before I noticed I was bleeding. Ok... pretty sure its my fault. But still! I usually use the power cord :/

            Also, I was thinking about LiON not NiMH or lead which do last longer. I was under the impression that you could expect around 60% capacity by the 4 year mark. Which for a car that is already severely handicapped
  • by igreaterthanu (1942456) * on Sunday December 12, 2010 @02:13AM (#34527618)
    As if before this new battery existed there didn't already exist a battery that was the smallest.
  • by Crash McBang (551190) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @02:19AM (#34527636)
    Scuff your feet and touch it to a doorknob?
  • by Kufat (563166) <kufat.kufat@net> on Sunday December 12, 2010 @02:37AM (#34527664) Homepage

    Scientists tell us that the sheer number of "A"s required to describe this battery would fill, like, a bunch of lines.

  • It may be the world's smallest battery, but it still won't be included.

  • Great! Now I can use it to power my open source violin!
  • Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dangitman (862676) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @03:41AM (#34527786)

    Because battery technology hasn't developed as quickly as the electronic devices they power, a greater and greater percentage of the volume of these devices is taken up by the batteries needed to keep them running.

    As they say, [citation needed].

    I don't know about the author, but the devices I use seem to have less of their volume taken up by batteries, yet still get better battery life. Compare a 2010 Macbook Air or Macbook Pro to a Powerbook 100. Or in one of my hobbies, electric powered radio-controlled aircraft, in the days of Ni-Cad batteries, they barely used to get off the ground because of the enormous, heavy batteries. In comparison, today's Lithium-Polymer powered craft have much smaller and lighter batteries, yet get more power.

    • by zmollusc (763634)

      I concur. My first mobile phone was powered by six AA nicads, approximately 40% of the volume of the phone. The last half dozen phones have been powered by some kind of electrical after-eight mint occupying maybe 10% of the volume.
      I would be happy if the phone doubled in thickness and all that extra space was used by a battery that held six times the charge.

      • by owlstead (636356)

        I concur that. They have been becoming smaller and smaller, while I would prefer sturdier (dust & waterproof, what world do these designers live in, office space or something?) and with longer lifetime. Allas, that's not a "sexy design", so you can only buy specialized, basic function phones that incorporate this.

      • You have a non smart phone and have battery life issues? That shit should be lasting a loooong time.
  • by feranick (858651) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @04:12AM (#34527838)
    "single tin oxide (Sn02) nanowire 10 nanometers long and 100 nanometers in diameter."

    This is not a wire (the diameter is one order of magnitude bigger than the length...). Maybe only a type, but the actual length should be in micrometers... Indeed from the original Science paper:

    "It took about half an hour to charge a nanowire with initial length of 16 um and diameter of 188 nm."

    It would be nice to check if reported claims made in TFA make sense before posting...
  • Sn02

    Should be "SnO2" not with a zero.

  • ...for powering the worlds smallest electric violin.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Monday December 13, 2010 @01:11AM (#34532270) Journal

    "Because battery technology hasn't developed as quickly as the electronic devices they power, a greater and greater percentage of the volume of these devices is taken up by the batteries needed to keep them running.

    I take issue with the premise. It couldn't be more wrong.

    A) Part of the development of electronics is reducing power consumption. If they're needing more battery power, its because they AREN'T developing very quickly.

    B) The fact that we can make devices that use a lot of power isn't novel at all. The opposite is true. If you need massive batteries to make up for the rampant waste of your device, you apparently designed it quite poorly.

    C) My new Droid2 has a much smaller battery than my 10 year old Cassiopia E-100; yet the battery life is about 25% better, this despite a 300% faster CPU, and builtin wifi, gps, cell, etc., so I'm hard pressed to see any way in which this the premise is objectively true.

    D) Even back then (10 years ago), there was a huge disparity between the power consumption of comarable devices. Compare the 3 hour battery like of the E-100 with the approx. 1 month runtime of my Psion5mx (symbian-based). There are notable differences, of course, but the later was by far the better PDA all around.

    E) And make no mistake, there's next to nothing you can name that smartphones do today that needs a super high-end CPU. Yes, I'm sorry to say you're paying hundreds of dollars on high end hardware solely to compensate for software bloat. MP3s worked just fine on Intel 386s. H.264 is the big one, but an integrated DSP can handle most of that heavy lifting.

    • by aiht (1017790)

      E) And make no mistake, there's next to nothing you can name that smartphones do today that needs a super high-end CPU. Yes, I'm sorry to say you're paying hundreds of dollars on high end hardware solely to compensate for software bloat. MP3s worked just fine on Intel 386s. H.264 is the big one, but an integrated DSP can handle most of that heavy lifting.

      My 200MHz, 32MB RAM smartphone feels slower than the 4.77MHz, 640KB IBM XT I used as a teenager.
      I know clock-speed isn't the only measure of cpu speed, but seriously?
      I used to compile C code on that old thing, and it didn't feel too slow. Even just using the calculator or notes applet on my phone feels slow.

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