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Silicon As the New Lithium 211

hduff writes "While lithium-ion batteries offer better performance than lead-acid or ni-cad batteries, the supply of lithium is limited and the batteries can pose problems. Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute are building a better battery with easily obtainable sand and air."
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Silicon As the New Lithium

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  • by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:03AM (#30375664) Journal

    There's so little gold in the entire world that even if we spun all of it unto wires the contribution would be negligible.

  • by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:08AM (#30375910)

    Wonderful, but there are an awful lot of warning signs that this thing is not a world-beater:

    * It's not rechargeable. And I don't know of any simple electrochemical process that reverses the oxidation of silicon.

    * It requires a Flourine-carrying electrolyte! Lithium is bad enuf, but Fluorine is really bad stuff.

    * Usually "air-powered" batteries are limited to very low current, slow discharge applications, such as hearing-aids.
    So it's very unlikely these could ever work like in a laptop or car, where you need amps, not microamps.

    * Any practical and competitive battery would have to have a good power-density and be stable and manufacturable at a reasonable price.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:14AM (#30375924) Journal
    There was a (temporary) setup [wikipedia.org] along those lines at one point.

    For Uranium isotope separation, they needed some large electromagnets. Unfortunately, WW2 was weighing rather heavily on the copper supply. Instead, they borrowed 13,000 tons of silver from the treasury.
  • Re:English is wrong. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phoenix321 ( 734987 ) * on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:27AM (#30375992)

    The chemical name for mercury is "hydrargyrum" and I'm glad nobody uses that regularly. "Quicksilver" could follow the latin word best without bending the tongue of scientists and technicians beyond repair.

  • Re:Summary (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phoenix321 ( 734987 ) * on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:51AM (#30376086)

    My car still burns non-rechargeable hydrocarbons and one tank barely lasts 600 hours.

    If the energy-to-weight and energy-to-cost ratios of that battery could reach even the general vicinity of gasoline, everything else concerning click-in systems or replacement is peanuts and will be invented less than one second after the battery itself. Of course we will have BluBattery and HD-Battery warring for dominance, but that's only a minor nuisance compared to the fact that we now could power cars, trucks, boats and airliners without needing to pay or liberate more 17th century cleptocracies somewhere in the deserts.

  • Re:Information (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:46AM (#30376386)

    I have no idea how much a 75kW specimen weighs.

    (Posting anonymously in order to preserve mod points)

    A lot less than you'd think. I have a 10kW motor that weighs 1.5kg, and isn't as wide around as my out-streched hand. The biggest enemy for these permanent magnet motors is heat. Even if your 100kW motor is 99% efficient, you still have to dump 1kW. Assuming that the motor scales (and it does), you could make 100kW out of 15kg, but I don't know how you'd keep the magnets below 85C (the temperature at which normal supermagnets demagnetize).

    And of course 99% is unrealistic. 90% would be a little better. So now you have to dump 10kW of heat from an object the size of an LCD screen. That's quite a lot of cooling. Cars get away with it because much-- perhaps the overwhelming majority-- of their waste heat goes out the exhaust in the form of hot gasses.

    Still, contrast that size and weight with an equivalent car engine and you see why electric is so interesting. Cooling them efficiently is a challenge, but by no means impossible.

  • Specialty (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zogger ( 617870 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:54AM (#30376460) Homepage Journal

    If this is your specialty, then please contribute more good articles about new batteries. It's hard to sort through the "coming soon in 10 years to never" from "coming soon, works pretty dang good now, perhaps on sale as early as next year" from "on sale now, here is a link" stuff.

    Battery tech to me today is sort of like solar PV tech. I've read hundreds of articles of new amazing break throughs, yet when I go check prices, the PV panels I got ten years ago are still a deal compared to what I see offered for sale today. They are marginally more efficient today, but at twice the price. Same with ancient tech lead acid batteries for bulk stationary storage, or short range urban electric vehicles, still the best deal out there. As soon as you go to anything else, zooba, whip out the platinum card and prepare to pay as much for a battery bank as a new mid range conventional car.

    That's what people are looking for, the currency unit to watts or amphours deal.

    Except for the smallest portable gadgets using lithium ion, I am just not seeing any affordable and practical major breakthroughs hitting the market with either solar PV or batteries, compared to say the advances in the last ten years with computers/cellphones, what you can get for the same or less dollars.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:55AM (#30376468)

    Other poster is right. Aluminum connections can be terminated, which solves a whole hell of a lot of problems.

    It's still not perfect, but it's a perfectly viable stand-in for copper. Copper terminals aren't going to need as much metal as copper wires, obviously.

  • Re:Natrium batteries (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pmontra ( 738736 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:29PM (#30378590) Homepage

    It seems that sodium is a newer name for natrium. Some languages kept the old one and others switched to sodium.

    I found an explanation at http://takimika.liceofoscarini.it/sostanze/etimelementi.phtml?periodo=3&gruppo=1 [liceofoscarini.it] I translate it from Italian:

    Sodium derives from modern Latin sodium, coined by Davy [probably this guy [wikipedia.org]] from middle ages Latin soda of arabic origins. The origin of the element symbol is different. It comes from natrium, the middle ages name for sodium carbonate, Na2CO3, derived from Latin nitrum and Greek nítron (salpetre), that is potassium nitrate, KNO3, which looks like sodium carbonate and was often confused with it in the old ages.

    By the way, "kaustik soda" is "soda caustica" in Italian.

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