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back to article Boffins build ant-sized battery, claim it's tough enough to start a car

Electronics continue to shrink to ever smaller sizes, but researchers are having a tough time miniaturising the batteries powering today’s mobile gadgets. Step forward, bicontinuous nanoporous electrodes. Smartphones use smaller power packs than they did five years ago, it’s true, but that’s because their chips and radios are …

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Mushroom

Meh...

I'll look for this in 10 years or so...

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Re: Meh...

Thank heavens for negativity like yours; I mean without that we might actually be making progress in the world...

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Re: Meh...

I'm with you M'Lord. No idea why you got a downvote. Stupid people I guess.

The amount of people who immediately post on some sort of research tech with this sort of shit is astounding. It's as if they don't want this research to be done. Thank god there are some people who do actually do this sort of research, whether successful or not. If the commenters here did it we would still be living in caves, using flaming torches for lighting.

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Happy

Re: Meh...

Hazarding a guess that the downvote is from the OP :-)

One thing that research critics frequently miss is that whilst a laboratory development may well miss the original objective, it is rarely wasted. It becomes a solution ready and waiting for the right problem to present itself.

Two examples that spring to mind: the accidental development of the post-it note (3M research scientist looking to develop an ultra-strong glue missed the project goal but accidentally invented the post-it), and laser eye surgery (scientist invents ultraviolet laser that appeared to do nothing except cut skin, considered worthless at the time until it was realised that it could be used to reshape corneas with no thermal damage to the surrounding tissue).

Research is never pointless.

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Re: Meh...

James, they wouldn't be using flaming torches - someone would have had to experiment with them, and that would have been a waste of time. Far better to just cower in the dark.

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Is that you Tony Blair?

I'd recognise you vision and foresight anywhere.

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The problem with this is in order to satisfy modern safety concerns the anode and cathode must be separated by some find of polymer membrane. This is almost always the rate limiting step and is a large part of why Li ion batteries are not as good as they should be.

Having said that it still represents a step forward. That particular technique for producing nano structures has been around for years but this is a nice commercial angle.

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Given that abused li-ion batteriy cells become "terrorist" cells and explode with byproducts being leaked including hydrofloric acid, personally i'm all in favour of erring on the side of safety and building all of the safety features in that are physically possible.

And even then we still get occasional devices going up in smoke.

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Mushroom

indeed. Especially when battery powered devices are mighty close to the crown jewels for most of the day.

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Quite - I really don't want to carry around enough power to jump start a car in my trouser pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

Now imagine that much power right next to your brain. Mobiles, or more permanently in the shape of Google Glasses. We may need to start paying attention now to what powers a device..

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Stop

???? Whot, no......

Carbon Nanotubes????

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3-dimensional electrodes

Call me picky, but all electrodes are 3 dimensional

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Anonymous Coward

He didn't say "three-dimensional"

... but he should have done.

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Boffin

Re: 3-dimensional electrodes

<over simplification>

The conventional electrode is 3D but the part that reacts (the exposed surface) is pretty much 2D - think "outside surface of a tube", surface = 2 x Pi x radius x length.

"3d" electrodes have much more complex reactive surfaces - think "lots of hollow spheres with both inside and outside exposed", surface = 8 x Pi x radius(squared) x number of spheres.

</over simplification>

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Coat

So is this the...

LIMO of batteries?

I'm goin', I'm goin'!

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FAIL

I've lost count of the number of stories I've read over the years about awesome advances in battery technology that will increase battery capacity two fold, ten fold or in this case so many fold that a battery a few square millimetres in size could start a car.

What I want to know is: what happened to 'em?

Coz they all say they'll be on the market in 5 years, I've been reading about them for 10 years but my phone battery still only lasts a day

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Coat

A day?

You must be using it wrong. If I get less than 2 weeks out of mine I'm disappointed.

Yeah, mine's the one with the Nokia 6310 in the pocket

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Def
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Go

Re: A day?

I generally charge my HTC 8X once a week, give or take a day or so. Suffice to say I'm suitably impressed with the battery life.

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Re: A day?

I can get 2 days from my Galaxy S2 if I don't use it....

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Re: A day?

Perhaps Nokia should re-introduce the 6310i and other classic phones, it might boost sales...

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in the end electricity storage is governed by a few very basic laws and you cant break em.

Chemical (battery) or electrostatic (capacitor) storage may improve, but not radically. What would be nice is to e.g. find a way to exploit nuclear binding energy without the need for a 2,000 tonne shielded reactor, an oversized kettle and a steam turbine..

Imagine a penny sized widget with a 2 pin socket in it, capable of delivering 100W for 10,000 years..

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... a power density of 7.4mW cm−2 μm−1 ....

That may be its delivery capability, but what is its storage density in mWh compared to other battery technologies?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ... a power density of 7.4mW cm−2 μm−1 ....

RTFA?

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v4/n4/extref/ncomms2747-s1.pdf

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ... a power density of 7.4mW cm−2 μm−1 ....

mWh is not a unit of energy storage density.

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FAIL

Re: ... a power density of 7.4mW cm−2 μm−1 ....

Er...

(dropping size units)

Wh / m3

=

energy / volume

=

energy storage density

No?

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Boffin

Re: ... a power density of 7.4mW cm−2 μm−1 ....

Yes,

mWh / m3 = energy density

mW / m3 = power density

e.g. How hard it can kick, not how many times it can kick.

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Boffin

Re: ... a power density of 7.4mW cm−2 μm−1 ....

Not quite: cm^2 . μm yields a dimension of volume so overall we get power.volume^{-1} (power density), but multiplying cm by μm looks definitely a bit odd.

However, it's W, not Wh, so we have power, not energy, density that is being described. It's a critical difference, if our ant size battery can only supply this power for a fraction of a second it's a non-starter. If it can sustain that for several hours, then we have something pretty spectacular.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ... a power density of 7.4mW cm−2 μm−1 ....

Idiot.

There are no 'm3's in "mWh"

Can't you read?

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Re: ... a power density of 7.4mW cm−2 μm−1 ....

its a measure of its impedance, (power density) rather than storage. I.e. is more like a capacitor than a battery. will go BANG if shorted, rather than smoulder and burst into flames.

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FAIL

Re: ... a power density of 7.4mW cm−2 μm−1 ....

D'oh, thanks guys.

So, not much use if it can pack the punch of a bullet but can only release it all in one go like a bullet (as supposed releasing slowly like a candle). Gotchya.

And to the AnonIdiot, the...

Oh, forget it. If you don't understand after 3 posts, you're not going to understand now.

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Paris Hilton

Bliss professorship and Dr King?

So what's this, a King-size battery that's Bliss for mobilie users? Or a Bliss that makes you the King of electric appliances?

At any rate, when I read that the same people who invented it are now looking for ways manufacture it in quantities, I can't help thinking of Buckyballs.

Paris because Bucky isn't around...

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Boffin

The problem with batteries ...

... is that when manufacturers make longer and better lasting batteries, tech companies make kit that just wants to consume more and more power.

If you stick one of today's phone batteries into a Nokia 3310 it'll probably last months without a recharge. (Just theoretically, obviously.)

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Re: The problem with batteries ...

Well duh! When you design hardware, you design it with the limitations of the technology at hand.

If there were 6KWh batteries the size of a pinhead, you can bet that mobile phone manufacturers would add some feature that would drain that battery in minutes.

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Trollface

Re: The problem with batteries ...

like 4G

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Meh

Re: The problem with batteries ...

"Well duh! When you design hardware, you design it with the limitations of the technology at hand."

The real world life expectancy of every laptop and mobile I've ever seen suggests that theory is in fact rubbish.

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Re: The problem with batteries ...

"Well duh! When you design hardware, you design it with the limitations of the technology at hand."

Not in the case of mobiles, with these you design it to work within the limitations of technology that will be on the market in ~5 years time, you then crowbar it into today's technology and launch as the latest must have...

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Magnesium?

Shouldn't that be Lithium Manganese Oxide? The Beeb has it as LiMnO2

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Nice to see the 'Graduate Student' who apparently came up with this getting some sort of attribution on El Reg, didn't see his name in any other press releases about this, for some reason (Yes, I know the reason)?

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So..

I'm not looking for instant mass market availability, but if you make stupid claim like "can start a car from a fag packet sized battery" or something to that effect, show a good quality video of exactly that. I don't care if it's a prototype that cost a ton - just show it, no tricks.

If not, how about waiting to actually find the thing is viable before trying to attract gullible investors.

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Boffin

Re: So..

Classic vicious circle. Without investment it may well never make it to the prototype stage, without a working prototype investment may be hard to come by. If the tech has genuine promise that would be a shame.

Of course now the paper has been published we could just sit back and wait until the Chinese manufacture it...

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Re: So..

Care to explain the downvotes? Not that it's important in the scheme of things, just curious how anybody could find this worth logging in to downvote!!

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Happy

Re: So..

Foolish Reg reader, come here and expect reason. Psssht.

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Re: So..

Current comercially available technology is roughly on the order of a D sized lithium-ion battery being able to start a petrol car engine. That's not capacity or energy though, it's power. The Energy in a Li-ion like that is about the same as in the much smaller (by dimensions and weight) battery in your phone.

As for 3D electrodes, Edison invented a similar thing for the Edison battery. If I've understood (and remembered) correctly, he made thin sheets of material, which he then shredded coated onto thin sheets, which were shredded and coated onto sheets, repeated until he arrived at a sheet with a total surface area several orders of magnitude larger than the dimensions as measured by a ruler :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So..

Your "Classic vicious circle" is no such thing. The original poster was talking about gullible investors, i.e. those who have not got the sense to look behind the claims before investing. They hear the hype and then invest based on that.

At this stage, the only ones investing should be those who have the sense to look behind the curtain and are therefore fully aware of all the risks involved.

Protecting the gullible does not stop the smart ones from investing if they view it as a good investment, hence no vicious circle and therefore a downvote.

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Re: So..

For what it's worth, I did not downvote you, even though I think the original point stands.

They're making claims to dazzle people because the truth would probably be less glamorous. But in reality, potentially more interesting.

I agree it's hard to get funding on projects like this - but then there are a lot of "green" companies in recent years that have had investment in - and have fallen apart. So, there's that precedent.

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man - that would be awesome

It would be the tech I've been waiting for to make electric paramotors that weighted nowt, and had a massive range. bring it on!

stu (google 'powerlord69' if you don't know what a paramotor is)

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Mushroom

Wouldn't house-sized batteries solve out green energy needs?

If the density is that great, and it scales, build it huge and we can store all the solar/wind/tidal we need.

Though it would also be quite a large security target... (Icon)

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Anonymous Coward

Jump start a car

OK, let's do the math.

Typical starting current for a car - somewhere between 100 and 500 amps. Let's assume 100A to make it easy.

Nominal voltage: 12V

Power to start a car: 1200W

Volume of this battery needed: 16 cm^3

So for once, the claim of a battery a few millimeters in size is almost believable (granted, it would be a few millimeters in thickness, and centimeters in width and height).

units

You have: 1200W / (7.4mW/cm*cm*um)

You want: cm^3

* 16.216216

/ 0.061666667

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Joke

Boeing 787 - Batteries not included

Boeing might be interested...

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