Saturday, February 02, 2013

Power to the people

Saw some amazingly cool facilities and met some rather clever people writing about the batteries of the future. 

The future of energy

Batteries included?

The search for better ways of storing electricity is hotting up

Feb 2nd 2013 | LEMONT, ILLINOIS |From the print edition

KRIS PUPEK, an industrial chemist at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, near Chicago, waves a tube of white powder in the air emphatically. A mere pinch of the contents is sufficient for his analytical colleagues to work out if it has the potential to be the next whizzy material in battery research. But Dr Pupek does not deal in pinches. His job is to find out whether potential can be turned into practice—in other words, whether something that has the right properties can be made cheaply, and in bulk. If it can, it is passed on to industry for testing. The hope is that at least one of the tubes will start a revolution.

Batteries are a hugely important technology. Modern life would be impossible without them. But many engineers find them disappointing and feel that they could be better still. Produce the right battery at the right price, these engineers think, and you could make the internal-combustion engine redundant and usher in a world in which free fuel, in the form of wind and solar energy, was the norm. That really would be a revolution. [More...]