Wednesday, 29 January 2020

New wave in battery power

There was an exciting announcement before Christmas last year about new battery technology coming from IBM. From what I have read, it appears that it uses "three new and different proprietary materials" (Na, 18 December 2019) and seems to be extracted from seawater, using an electrolyte base (ie, salt and minerals). While the technology is only at pilot stage at present, the resulting batteries will be far less flammable, which will mean that eventually we may be able to post phones, or to put them in our checked luggage once more.

IBM are not yet talking about particular uses, but they are saying that recharge times are likely to be fraction of what they currently are, with under "five minutes required to reach an 80 percent state of charge" (Na, 18 December 2019). The batteries apparently hold a lot more power, take longer to discharge, and can deliver a higher voltage (Dormehl, 20 December 2019; Na, 18 December 2019). Development may have been driven by aircraft requirements for "access to batteries with very high-power density, which can scale a power load quickly" (Na, 18 December 2019). So this technology may have been specifically developed for electric flight technology ...although no one is yet speculating about this.

Right now, it is nice to think that perhaps toxic mining for elements such as Cobalt may now become small-scale industries, that perhaps electric flight may become available, allowing us to reduce the huge amount of CO2 we pump into the atmosphere with every flight (747s burn 12 litres of fuel per kilometre - ouch; Sandhy, 7 May 2017). It also seems that there will be fewer toxic components to recycle at the end of the produce life-cycle with this new technology. Once the battery processing and design reaches scale, and the new battery technology trickles down eventually to phones, battery fires may too be a thing of the past.

This is a technology that I will update you on as I hear :-)


Sam

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