I’m sure that’s welcome news- especially since that Lithium Ion battery technology in your notebook PC may not have all that much room for improvement.
That’s according to experts cited in a major new Wired magazine piece entitled “Building A Better Battery.”
The problem, writer John Hockenberry explains, is that the size and performance of Li-ons, as Lithium-Ion batteries are often referred to, is set by inevitable chemical reactions necessary to make the batteries run. And Moore’s Law-which has led to smaller chips and smaller devices, doesn’t apply here.
The key, Russian-born scientist Tom Krupenkin believes, is something called rechargeable nanograss. It sounds like something you would buy at Home Depot or the old Seed N’ Feed, but not really.
At a small start-up called mPhase Technologies, Krupenkin – who holds Ph.D’s in physics and material science- is working with his charges (veterans of Bell Labs) are designing tiny batteries out of nanograss that can be turned on and off chemically. These batteries would turn off and on automatically, saving power.
But there’s far more than mere energy savings to factor in yhere.
“Nanograss, Krupenkin explains, “is superhydrophobic, or massively water resistant. Fluids deposited on the tiny silicon posts are practically frictionless. A droplet of water remains spherical on the nanograss. But when Krupenkin applies an electric charge between the droplet and the silicon, the droplet disappears. The current has disrupted the water’s surface tension, causing it to fall into the nanograss, where it’s held firm by the tiny posts. Krupenkin calls this “electrowetting.” Apply another tiny current across the conductor and the water molecules heat up, causing the droplet to rise back to the top of the nanograss, where surface tension once again keeps it in a nearly perfect sphere.”
Then Hockenberry explains the concept is to channel this electrowetting in a way that would efficiently regulate battery operation.
“The nanograss would hold a battery’s electrolyte away from the reactive metal when no power is needed, then release it when it’s time to turn on,” Hockenberry writes. “This type of structure would free device manufacturers to distribute fields of tiny batteries deep into their products. Components could pop on and go to sleep as needed.”