New Developments for Really Tiny and Really Big Batteries


Photo via Moria via Flickr CC

Batteries of two extremes have hit the news in the last week. One promises to be thinner than a piece of paper, perfect for cell phones and other hand held devices. The other promises to be huge and liquid, ideal for storing green energy like wind and solar. First, the giant batteries. MIT scientists are working out large stationary batteries made entirely from liquid metal. The intention is to be able to store large amounts of power from wind farms or solar cells - a key issue facing renewable energy right now. Promising to have "no solid anything" in them,

"Since these batteries won't be in someone's hand or in a car, we don't have to make them crash-worthy, idiot-proof, and it doesn't have to operate at around body temperature," said Don Sadoway, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who, along with graduate student David Bradwell and fellow professor Gerbrand Ceder, is developing the molten metal battery.

Right now, the main issue is cheaply scaling up, sine the batteries have to be heated to at least 500 degrees Celsius. But safety doesn't seem to be a major concern, and the researchers believe they could even be part of homes or hospitals in the future, storing solar or wind energy generated at the sites.

More details on this potential new way to store green energy is available in the Discovery news report on it at MSNBC.

Now for the itty bitty batteries. Researchers in Japan and India say they've hit a breakthrough in developing a 5.2 volt battery that is thinner than a sheet of paper, and can be used to charge cell phones and other handhelds, and even laptops. They are hoping to capture part of the thin-film battery market that is expected to hit $11 billion by 2012.

Super thin batteries could mean using even fewer materials in devices, which is great. But we're curious about the eco-impact of the nanotechnology manufacturing methods used to make them - something still controversial. Of course, there is also the issue of recyclability, since anything going into mobile devices that have been treated as practically disposable should be highly recyclable.

We'll keep our eye on both of these battery technologies to see where they head.

Via MSNBC and CleanTech
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