We know that battery capability, which is primarily defined using energy density by volume and by weight, is a critical factor in determining what we can expect of the units they power. Pundits at all levels of technical knowledge from near-zero to quite advanced keep reminding us of this obvious fact, and then opine on what they think will or should happen next. In many cases, these writers have an agenda (of course, a common one is "send us more grant money and funding so we can finish the job"), so it's hard to separate facts from hopes and wishful thinking.
That's why I was impressed by a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, "Tech World Vexed by Slow Progress on Batteries," which I thought was one of the best and clearest assessments of the present status of battery technology and advances I have seen. The article made two points:
There have been significant advances in the last few years that have made many products practical, including smart phones and battery-powered tools. (The author cites specific examples.) Although each advance may have been modest in itself, they do add up to a genuine and substantial increase in performance metrics.
The much-vaunted "breakthrough" that everyone wants, hopes for, or claims they are "this close" to, just isn't in sight. When you step back and look at the bigger picture, there's certainly been progress, but it has been in incremental layers, not major leaps. The breakthrough to allow practical batteries that are much, much lighter in weight, denser in capacity, and lower in cost (hopefully, all at the same time) is not just around the corner. It seems that we are bombarded with researchers claiming that they on the path for the breakthrough, but that hasn't materialized when you peel back the hype.
The supposed imminent "quantum leaps" (a very misused phrase) are really just modest advances of varying degrees, not game changers or "paradigm shifts," to use another cliché. Further, translating even a modest prototype battery improvement into actual volume manufacturing and OEM adoption is a long-term undertaking -- on the order of ten years or more. Regardless of the technology or chemistry you have, battery manufacturing is a very capital- , materials-, and production-intensive process.
There's another problem with supposed breakthroughs: You can only recognize them in retrospect, so you need the perspective of hindsight. It's like peak detection, in that you can only determine that you have had a peak after it has passed. Breakthroughs are very hard, if not impossible, to see as they approach or even as they happen, and it is even harder to see how they will really unfold. Consider these major breakthroughs in our industry:
The transistor (1947) was demonstrated as an analog amplifier. Its role as a digital-switching building block was not really foreseen.
The integrated circuit (1958) was an analog audio oscillator. The impact of large-scale integration for digital functions was not apparent.
The laser (1960) was called "a solution in search of problems to solve" by observers. We know how that situation turned out!
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For me, I think there is a limit to how much power that can be put in a small size container as battery.
Another factor is the quality of materials used and then the power consumption of the device too matters.
"exactly my point. Everything depends on power that is battery and it has not been worked on like it should have been. Anyways I hope that industry realizes that and it will be a resolved issue within the coming few years."
Waqas, yes some research is happening in that direction too; for better battery life. Recent addition is 4000 mah power from Samsung.
Jacob, exactly my point. Everything depends on power that is battery and it has not been worked on like it should have been. Anyways I hope that industry realizes that and it will be a resolved issue within the coming few years.
"If we talk about all the components of devices/phones/laptops, there are some components that have exponentially grown like processing power and storage means i.e. HDDs but one component that is the power component, the batteries, have not been very impressively handled by the manufacturers. The comparative growth rate of batteries isn't up to the mark when compared to other components."
Waqas, but in devices all such grown components has to be supported by battery power. If processing power increases means its need battery power for supporting its performance. I mean if no power means it won't be able to perform. So the basic thing is power, which very much required for all componential performance.
"Waqas, am not sure how we can compare batteries with RAM, HDD, processor etc, but there are some improvements happened in alkaline storage and power bank technology. "
If we talk about all the components of devices/phones/laptops, there are some components that have exponentially grown like processing power and storage means i.e. HDDs but one component that is the power component, the batteries, have not been very impressively handled by the manufacturers. The comparative growth rate of batteries isn't up to the mark when compared to other components.
tech4people, yes point taken. It is just a storage means and not generator of power.
I sometimes feel that battery manufacturers intentionally do not work on increasing the efficiency of batteries (as in increased number of hours of battery power) because this way they will generate sales of extra battery packs which people must carry with them. Just a thought.
@Flyingscot, we are certainly expecting more and more of our technology. When I bought my first computer, an Apple Mac, I was given a choice of 10 or 20 MB of hard disk space. I remember thinking, what in the world would i do with 20MB of hard disk space? Today, I installed the latest version of Lync IM client and it demanded more than 10 times that amount of space for the one program.
How the cycle has turned: Putting an AM radio into a car was a big advance in the 1920s and 1930s. Now, auto vendors are considering eliminating the radio as a standard or even optional feature, due to declining user need and listenership.
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