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Xan at Corrente refers to it as the shipstone from Robert Heinlein’s novel, Friday, but this is a philosopher’s stone for renewable power generation. Stanford University researchers are on track to produce a new Lithium-ion battery with ten times the capacity of current batteries.

The problem with electrical power generation has never been producing the electricity – there are multiple ways of doing that – it has been storing it in sufficient quantities. You can rig photo-voltaic cells to produce electricity, but you need to store that power for the nights and cloudy days. Windmills work well, but you need to store the power for calm days.

The standard lead-acid battery has too many drawbacks, and a new storage system has been holding up really useful electric vehicles, off-the-grid power systems, even an all-day laptop.

If this breakthrough can be put into production, a lot of things will change. This is very good news.


1 fallenmonk { 12.21.07 at 2:40 pm }

Not a shipstone but very good news indeed. With the latest advances in thin film solar cells and wind power we might be getting there. May be practical for even home use.

2 Bryan { 12.21.07 at 4:24 pm }

Storage has always been the problem, and this looks really good as a solution. It solves a couple of problems with vehicles, weight and available power. A lot of power is need just to move the batteries, so the ten fold increase in storage will see another increase in less wasted energy.

Things are definitely looking up, if these things can be brought to market.

3 andante { 12.21.07 at 9:25 pm }

This is REALLY exciting!

The implications for solar energy alone are endless.

No doubt Big Oil and King Coal will fight it to the death.

4 Steve Bates { 12.21.07 at 10:23 pm }

Cool! (It must be that, too, if it can handle such an energy density without blowing up.)

andante is right, of course. (andante, where have you decided to boldly go?) Brought to market? Feh. I’ll wager the Bushists attempt to classify the technology as a matter of Heimatsicherheit, assigning manufacturing rights to a certain defense contractor… and then do absolutely nothing with it.

5 Bryan { 12.21.07 at 10:55 pm }

Actually the process as described is remarkable simple, and so logical you wonder why people didn’t think of it before, but then, much of genius is stating what should be obvious, and becomes obvious when you say it aloud.

I fear you are right, Andante. If you manufacture batteries based on this break through in mass and tie them to even the current solar roof tiles that are available, most single family homes can exist off the grid. The electrical utilities will not like that eventuality.

I don’t know if you were aware of it, Steve, but for years IBM bought up patents for new technology to bury it if it affected a core IBM product line.

The other concern is that there aren’t any US manufacturers left who can build the batteries, and China may get the technology by default. Sony is an obvious company to bring these batteries into production.

6 Badtux { 12.22.07 at 12:29 am }

The biggest issue will be whether these batteries can be made affordably. The Prius uses NiMH batteries mostly because lIon batteriers are half the weight for the same amount of power, but are ten times the price.

7 andante { 12.22.07 at 12:40 am }

I am boldly going on with attempting to gift-wrap innumerable gifts. Needless to say, I’m crankier than usual, and my back hurts from bending over all that mess. Bah, humbug!!!

(Please feel free to correct my bolded mess, Bryan)

8 Michael { 12.22.07 at 12:46 am }

If both collection and storage can be improved by comparable factors we have effectively unlimited energy at our disposal.

9 Michael { 12.22.07 at 12:58 am }

Maybe something like this will help.

10 Bryan { 12.22.07 at 1:02 am }

There’s no doubt that price enters into every decision, but I just had to locate NiCads to replace some bad batteries in my outside solar lighting and they are more expensive than the NiMH that I have in abundance. The price is reflected in the volume. The price will drop if the volume is there.

I’ll take care of it for you Andante, but it’s OK to scream on the ‘Net.

It as always been a matter of storage, Michael, and this looks very good.