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Batteries of tomorrow

The first battery was developed by Alessandro Volta in 1800 using alternating layers of metal and blotting paper soaked in salt water. His invention looked very similar to a stack of coins, and it provided very little voltage or energy. However his creation would soon lead to many innovations that have resulted in the modern day battery. We rely on batteries for many functions that we take for granted. They are found in our alarm clocks, watches, cell phones, computers, and cars. They have a significant impact on our lives, however most people do not know how or why they work. The first thing to understand is that all batteries are not created equally.

Some of the common battery compositions include Lithium Ion - found in many of our consumer electronics including: laptops, digital cameras, and cell phones, Nickel-cadmium and Nickel-metal hydride - used for the make up of many rechargeable batteries, the Alkaline based battery which is a disposable battery such as Energizer and Duracell, and finally the lead acid battery which is a deep cycle battery found in our modern day cars. One of the main criteria in judging the quality of a battery is its power and energy to weight ratio. While bigger batteries are able to provide more energy they often times do not meet the size requirements in many of our consumer electronics.

Similar to developments made from Alessandro Volto's battery in the 1800's, tomorrows battery promises to be smaller and much more powerful, allowing us to perhaps operate super computers in the palm of our hand. While there hasn't been any definitive technology in the forefront, there are many competing technologies that offer a wide variety of benefits.

Fuel Cell

One of the most promising technologies is the fuel cell. Similar to today's batteries, a fuel cell relies on an electrochemical reaction to product energy. However what is unique about it is that it converts hydrogen and oxygen into water to produce electricity. However the benefit of the fuel cell unlike the traditional battery is that over time a traditional battery will end up losing its power, or you constantly have to recharge it; while a fuel cell is constantly being recharged due to the flow of chemicals.

Although we may not see fuel cells crop up on a wide scale for at least 5 -10 years, they have very little negative effects. The first applications will be for home and small business use, providing a means for backup and supplemental power. Cars will eventually incorporate this technology to help better the environment. Once this technology has proven to be reliable in both of these categories the fuel cell may then make it to large scale power source.

Nanotechnology

Today, there are companies developing solar and energy storage products, based on nanotechnology using carbon nanotubes. Many believe the ultimate replacement for fossil fuels will be fulfilled by the use of photovoltaic, combined with an appropriate technology to store hydrogen. The ultimate energy cycle for future generations will then be using the sun as the primary source of energy, converting it to electricity via photovoltaic methods, using the photovoltaic electricity to electrolyze water, store the hydrogen from the electrolysis process, and use this hydrogen by reconverting it in a fuel cell into electricity. This technology will eventually result in:

  • Electric field controlled hydrogen storage in carbon nanotubes, acronym to be used FHSN (Field controlled Hydrogen Storage Nanoparticles)
  • Nickel carbon nanotube batteries, Ni/CN batteries

Batteries play a significant role in our lives and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. The future of batteries for laptop computers, camcorder, lithium, cordless phone, UPS, alarm systems, watch, hearing aid, camera, digital camera, power tools, cordless drills, and other power supplies, is ever changing. Technologies such as fuel cells, solar cells, and improvements in the lithium ion battery significantly make our lives easier.

 

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