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!
To read the rest of this article, visit EBN sister site EE Times.
"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."
Bill, energy domain/sector is an evergreen topic. Eventhough we are able to generate green or renewable energy, storage is a major concern. Mainly we are depending batteries for storage and as of now storage capacities are limited and around 60-70% are the efficiency of storage batteries. So more storage per cells has to be the motto for R&D in storage devices.
Bill, you have touched a topic which unfortunately has not been touched much by the tech-writers on internet which I think is due to the reason that they consider this topic too minute in aspect when considering the role of technology in growth of industries. However, you can realize its important if your phone/laptop/tablet is not charged at a time when urgent contact through email or internet apps becomes game-changer.
"So more storage per cells has to be the motto for R&D in storage devices."
You have highlighted the core objective that should be setup by battery manufacturers and I am sure they realize that but it is true that results have not been very impressive when comparing them with other components of devices such as RAM, HDDs and processors.
Jacob, one more thing I'd like to highlight is that in 30% of the usage times, I am facing a low battery alert. Portable battery pack is a good cover but ideally it shouldn't be required. Primary battery should serve the purpose.
Basically the batteries are used in devices which are mobile The cellphones, the vehicles, the laptops and finally the evolving EVs.
In all these devices the main performance criterion are 1. weight 2. energy density 3. recharge time and 4. cost.
The future enrgy packs ( not necessarily the conventional batteries using the electrochemical technique ) need to address these issues by some radical thinking in terms of material usage, energy conversion/reconversion and so on.
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.
185 million searchable parts
(please enter a part number or hit search to begin)
EBN Dialogue / LIVE CHAT
EBN Dialogue enables you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Open to the entire EBN community of electronics supply chain experts, these conversations see ideas shared, comments made, and questions asked and answered in real time. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats. Stay tuned and join in!