The Next Battery

It seems that almost everything now is powered by batteries and everything that isn’t has a USB port to charge up batteries. Those of you who have been around long enough know that every few years a new generation of batteries is developed. There were alkaline batteries, then Nicad batteries and now there are Lithium-Ion batteries. Each generation of battery is better than the last generation but they never seem to catch up with the ever increasing demand for more power.

Our electronics, while they consume less power per task than they used to, continue to evolve in power and need more and smaller sources to drive them. From what I have read recently the next generation of batteries is on the horizon. Here is a quote from the article:

New research out of a Columbia University Engineering team, via, has uncovered a method to stabilize solid electrolytes in lithium metal, a.k.a solid-state batteries. Utilizing a boron nitride nano-coating can produce batteries that offer up to 10 times the charge capacity of graphite based Li-ion batteries. In addition, ceramic electrolytes often used in solid-state battery design are non-flammable, reducing safety concerns.


Ten times the capacity and are finally non-flammable! Maybe that will meet our need for at least a few years. 🙂

Finishing this post off slightly off topic, I want to give you a short history lesson about electricity. In the early days, meaning the late 1800s there was a battle for what would be the standard for distributing electricity. It was similar to what has happened recently, well at least my recently, between BetaMax and VHS. Edison started the distribution scheme with DC electricity, but since it could not be transmitted more that a few miles it required power stations in almost every neighborhood. Along came Tesla. No, I am not talking about the auto manufacturer who simply borrowed his name, I am talking about the one who invented AC electricity. The very distinct advantage of AC is that it can be transmitted for almost unlimited distances. Long story short, Tesla won. But, given what the future might be, maybe not.

Now that alternative energy source are getting a major market share, it won’t be long before individual households with have the own power generating capabilities and that power will be DC electricity. Finally getting to the point here, when batteries are able to store the household energy everything will likely turn to DC powered. I don’t know how long that will take but I for one can certainly see it as a reality.

2 thoughts on “The Next Battery

  1. AC will most likely continue to reign. DC that is generated at the home goes through an inverter in order to power AC appliances. Also needs to be AC to go back on the grid when we generate more than we can use. I cannot see a future that will have enough batteries for every home owner , apartment resident & high rise. The battery volume would be staggering. Look how large the battery bank would need to be to power a 5 ton AC for just a day without any sunshine.
    Most of the solar installs going on homes are not paid for by the homeowner. They cannot afford them. They are paid for by solar vendors that enter into a contract with the homeowner for X years. Vendor makes some of their money by putting excess power back on to the grid. If it was only consumed at the home and not dumped back on the grid the cost to the homeowner would be even higher.
    Even though I never thought it would be the solution it looks like Pinker’s observation in Enlightenment Now is correct. The only power solution that can be put in place quickly and worldwide that will actually not contribute to global warming is nuclear. Alternative energy will always have a place but it will not be a primary source. Nuclear also has the advantage of working with all the inefficient buildings we already have. We don’t have to wait a hundred years for them to all be improved.


    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Fred. Yeah, I agree that in the short term, meaning 25 years or so, AC will continue to reign simply because of the embedded base of equipment we use. But, looking long term things will change. It is kind of like the gasoline engine, it has lasted for about a century now but its day is coming when it will be replaced. We simply can’t continue to rely on limited carbon based fuels forever.

      Look back at technology in general to see when what powered us to the moon could now be contained in a typical cell phone. I can’t believe that even a decade or two ago we thought one meg of memory would be enough for everything we need. Now a typical cell phone contains a couple thousands times that much. This next generation of battery will give us 10 times the power of what we are using now. A couple more generations will only require a battery small enough for us to lift to power our entire households.

      Yes, solar and wind now requires an AC inverter to run our things but except for ac motors that ac must be converted to dc via rectifiers to be used for the home. DC to DC without the wasteful rectifications will be the norm, it is just a matter of time.


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