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Power The Military Technology

Batteries Smaller Than a Grain of Salt 68

An anonymous reader writes "Lithium-ion batteries have become ubiquitous in today's consumer electronics — powering our laptops, phones, and iPods. Research funded by DARPA is pushing the limits of this technology and trying to create some of the tiniest batteries on Earth, the largest of which would be no bigger than a grain of sand. These tiny energy storage devices could one day be used to power the electronics and mechanical components of tiny micro- to nano-scale devices."
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Batteries Smaller Than a Grain of Salt

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  • by iONiUM ( 530420 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @03:56PM (#33965372) Journal

    I don't know about everyone else, but I've had no less than 4 devices in the last year have faulty Li-Ion batteries (they didn't hold a charge, or ran out much faster than they should have). Each time I had to exchange the device for a new one, at which point it worked as expected.

    Is this really how batteries are now? It's pathetic.

  • Re:Great.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dakman ( 824764 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @04:03PM (#33965486) Homepage
    The connector is larger than the battery! Actually, considering the small size of these, let's pair it up with some wireless power action. Then we'd be in business.
  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @04:04PM (#33965500) Journal

    A couple of months ago, my ThinkPad reported my battery as "unusable" after a year of service. Odd thing was, the battery didn't slowly lose service life. I was getting 3 hours at first, and it was down to about 2 hours 30 minutes, then one day I plugged it in to recharge and the ThinkPad flat out refused to charge the battery. It was under warranty, so Lenovo issued my company a new one free of charge and even overnighted it, but...

    I'm wondering if this is a sign that manufacturers are finally taking the scary explosive dangerousness that is highly unstable Li-Ion seriously, and programming their chargers to be overcautious about any and all perceived faults in the battery?

  • Re:Ok... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dancindan84 ( 1056246 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @04:31PM (#33965988)

    Maybe I'm missing something here. What is this for? Nano-machines? Nano listening devices? Nano-trackers? Now that seems like the really interesting question....

    That's the thing. These are the proverbial horse that's going to pull the cart. We're not sure what these are going to power, but the power source has to be available before those things can be developed. Sure you can design devices without a known power source, but you can't hook a prototype nano-medical bot up to a 12V with jumper cables for proof of concept purposes.

  • Re:Sand or salt? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The_mad_linguist ( 1019680 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @05:18PM (#33966616)

    Except people in the US, since nobody can remember the conversion factor between Metric Buttloads (mB) and Imperial Fucktons.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @05:46PM (#33966916)

    I'd be more interested in knowing why every time the energy density of batteries increase, my consumer grade hardware simply gets thinner with a smaller battery to compensate and make sure my autonomy remains horribly short despite the technology being available to drastically improve things?
    I mean, I know that packing too much energy density around is dangerous but the cell configurations of the larger laptops could easily fit into a smaller one and provide the uncorded hours that those rated numbers boast if the designers weren't so bent on pursuing the look of the macbook air...

  • Power density (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ermintru ( 797621 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:06PM (#33968876)
    So we current have current laptop batteries that store X power in Y space and when then go wrong they over heat or even burst into flames so the new batteries that store the X power in "grain of rice" space then the power density stored must be a minimum of a 1000 times higher what happens when one of those goes wrong?
  • Re:Power density (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Thursday October 21, 2010 @08:17AM (#33972074)


    "We're trying to achieve the same power densities, the same energy densities as traditional lithium ion batteries, but we need to make the footprint much smaller," says Chang.

    If these batteries are using a chemical process, they're limited to chemical energy densities, which can't get a whole lot higher than what we see today.

    A white-hot iron rod will make your clothing burst into flames at a touch. A white-hot spark from your Dremel tool grinding that same rod will bounce right off your clothes, or your skin, without any effect or sensation. So, yeah, it would probably be sort of like that.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes