It’s now less than 10 days until Christmas. There’s a good chance that you need extra batteries for some of those packages you’ll put under the tree next Tuesday night — which seems a festive reason to drop in on that vital technology precinct.
Most of us grumbled through this year about this or that battery draining so quickly, or taking so long to charge or getting so hot when it’s charging. Today’s batteries seem to draw as much in expletives as they do in electrical current.
As much as we get mad at our batteries, though, they too are on a massive innovation trajectory.
For instance: Sumitomo Electric wants to triple the life of a battery using a complicated process that involves a new-ish conductive material called “Aluminum- Celmet.” It gets painted onto a plastic foam, which gets nickel-plated and then heated, so the foam and other materials separate. The foam is more porous so more Lithium can go in, or some such.
Then there’s the recharging mat. Plop your phone onto it, watch it refill its tank. Outfits like the Power Matters Alliance, founded by Procter & Gamble and PowerMat Technologies last year, want to line the horizontal surfaces of our lives with such charging pads. Coffee shops, train stations, ironing boards, you name it.
Here’s an end state for batteries that’s simultaneously desirable and inconceivable: Recharging our gadgetry without wires, and without a charging pad. What!
The Alliance for Wireless Power, among others, wants to do what charging mats do, but over longer distances.
But this is by far my favorite battery story of the year: Eesha Khare, 18 years old, invented a way to completely recharge a cellphone — in 30 seconds.
She (she!) won Intel’s Young Scientist of the Year award for supercapacitor-based energy storage, detailed in the deliciously nerdy-sounding “Design and Synthesis of Hydrogenated TiO2-Polyaniline Nanorods for Flexible High-Performance Supercapacitors.”
Translation: Foundational stuff for a battery that lasts way longer than today’s Lithium-Ion types — 10,000 cycles, compared to around 1,000 cycles inside the batteries powering the gadgets in our digital gardens now.
Bonus: It’s solid state, which means no nasty battery juice inside. That also means it’s environmentally friendly and can be bent, folded or rolled up and still maintain its electrical properties.
None of this will be ready by next Wednesday. But have faith. It’s coming.