back to article Whizzes' lithium-iron-oxide battery 'octuples' capacity on the cheap

A band of boffins from Illinois have published a paper detailing a new battery design for mobile devices and electric vehicles that could increase capacity up to eight times while reducing costs. One half of the team, based at Northwestern University, focused on making digital models, while their partners at Argonne National …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Mr Musk....

    Could we have a development grant please?

    1. Flakk Silver badge

      Re: Dear Mr Musk....

      Considering that Elon receives significant amounts of grant money from the government, wouldn't it be easier for this team to just cut out the middleman?

      1. Roq D. Kasba

        Re: Dear Mr Musk....

        @Flakk, why are you getting downvoted for this? It's not like it's not public knowledge that he has HUUUGE public money subsidies - calculated to nearly $5 BEEEEEELION. Billion, not Million. Billions are very very big numbers. A million seconds is 11 days, a billion seconds is 31 years. Billions are BIG.

        <<Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The (LA) Times.>> http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-musk-subsidies-20150531-story.html

        http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/345338-can-we-wean-elon-musk-off-government-support-already

        1. rmullen0

          Re: Dear Mr Musk....

          Cry me a river. I would rather have Musk get free money to do something useful for society than have it pissed away on illegal immoral wars making the planet less secure not more. Why don't you go cry about the oil company subsidies. When those are gone you can complain about Musk.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dear Mr Musk....

        I take it you don't like musk then, based on you picking out him specifically. Shall we break down what this money he 'received'.

        1.29billion tax incentives to build the gigafactory in nevada, which will be only be seen over the next 20 year period if he employs 6500 people by 2020. So didnt receive any money there, just will be paying less tax, like all other large companies that different states want, and now all companies will be getting - MAGA hey?

        45 million in discounts on a loan of 465m, which the state made money from, by the way ford got a discount on a loan of 5.9billion - MAGA

        90m tax break on manufacturing equipment to reopen the NUMMI plant in Fermont, hiring back the workers that lost their jobs at GM and toyota. - MAGA

        517m selling zev tax credits, not payed by the tax payers but by car manufatures so that they dont get fined for not meeting emissions requirements - MAGA

        284m tax credit on car purchases, this is seen by the buyer, not tesla and applies to all electric vehicles and 38m more from california.

        126m for deploying batteies to help in stablisation of the power grid in california

        750m building solar city, which the state owns on the condition that over 10 years 5 billion is spent on employing 3450 workers.

        1.5b estimated value for 30% subsidy on solar installations, which includes they only grant here of 497m

        5.6m from newyork also in tax incentives for the same thing

        260m in property taxes for solar city, as the state owned it.

        20m to building a spacex launch facility near brownsville

        got tired of putting MAGA at the end, that stupid word, hey how about MEGA, that an actual word, Make Europe Great Again.

        So only 1 grant in there worth 497m, all the others havent been paid to him, the companies, like many other companies get tax breaks for doing things.

        1. Elsmarc

          Re: Dear Mr Musk.... Have some "tax breaks"

          "So only 1 grant in there worth 497m, all the others havent been paid to him, the companies, like many other companies get tax breaks for doing things."

          If only all US citizens got such tax breaks.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dear Mr Musk.... Have some "tax breaks"

            "If only all US citizens got such tax breaks."

            When each US citizens start to create 1000s of jobs and are unable to get additional tax breaks for their effort and when they are trying to advance humanity, come back and complain.

            Yes hes a business man, wanting to make money. The areas he has chosen to have gone into are high risk sectors, but with the potential for high return but also providing advancements for all.

            If you want to complain about wasted taxes, look at the tax breaks for the companies that get them for doing nothing, look at the trillions wasted on wars. Imagine what a fraction of that funding could do for some research.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Dear Mr Musk....

      not just Elon's money, but EVERY! LAPTOP! COMPUTER! MAKER! and EVERY! PHONE! MAKER!

      This is the best news in battery tech since the announcement of Aluminum in lieu of Lithium a couple of years ago [I remember reading about it on El Reg].

      But if the batter is MORE STABLE (particularly with respect to gassing, a problem I've had to deal with in hardware I've been working on), then it's even MORE awesome!

      yeah, nothing good happens when your aging LiPo batteries look like pillows...

      [the other day I accidentally shorted one and it swelled up like a balloon in about 5 seconds, got hot enough to melt plastic - I put it under running water and it shrank down flat almost as quickly, but couldn't hold a charge any more]

      1. KH

        Re: Dear Mr Musk....

        Re: putting the Lipo in water...

        I've seen videos of LiPos burning, being dropped in water, and they KEEP BURNING! UNDER WATER!

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Windows

        THE TALK: BATTERY TECH EDITION

        not just Elon's money, but EVERY! LAPTOP! COMPUTER! MAKER! and EVERY! PHONE! MAKER!

        Look here, kid.

        I will tell you about hype and vaporeware and how this works and on how engineering is actually hard to do and most ideas fall by the wayside out of various reasons (generally NOT conspiracies).

        Now, take a seat.

    3. Rol Silver badge

      Re: Dear Mr Musk....

      Who best to apportion technology development grants?

      The government who need a weeks training on how to turn on a computer or a man who has proven himself time and again to be a forward thinking innovator?

      Many of the projects Elon has picked up and run with, would otherwise still be getting kicked around by nervous investors, more interested in limiting their potential losses than in trying to save the world.

      In my mind, a world with just one Elon Musk can balance out the nightmare of several Trumps.

      1. KR Caddis

        Re: Dear Mr Musk....

        Only excision will negate the problems by and of Trump etal.

  2. sequester

    Oh look, another one.

    It's about time that kind of research only gets accepted for publication or considered by journalists after a working prototype is available for all to see and take apart.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Oh look, another one.

      Even later, when a pilot mass-production run is under way, since that's usually the point the tech is going all-in.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Oh look, another one.

      Maybe patents (and it depends), but not research.

    3. Richard Tobin

      Re: Oh look, another one.

      So how are you supposed to get funding to develop a prototype if you can't publish until after you've already got one?

      And why do *you* get to decide what's published?

      1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

        Re: Oh look, another one.

        The problem is not publishing the research. Publishing research is a great way to spread knowledge, gain funding, promote one's skills etc.

        The problem is the mass media* picking it up and running with it when they have no idea what they are talking about. They misrepresent things through their lack of understanding**.

        * I'll exclude el Reg from this, given that this article included comments from a real world expert.

        ** I am giving them the benefit of the doubt here, assuming that it's a lack of understanding rather than wilful lying for clickbait or that they have less than half a dozen brain cells to call to action.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Oh look, another one.

          The problem isn't even the mass media - they don't pickup these stories.

          It's the University publicity dept that crawl the research labs looking for anything that is potentially commercial-able or even just newsworthy.

          The announcement has put the university of wherever in the news, to potential students, to alumni, ro donors, to startup investors - with a bit more spin it could be known as "the" place fro battery research.

          Even if this research goes nowhere the publicity is probably worth a few $M

          1. terrythetech
            Facepalm

            Re: Oh look, another one.

            Yup, indeed. Reminiscent of cold fusion.

      2. Little Mouse

        Re: Oh look, another one.

        So how are you supposed to get funding to develop a prototype if you can't publish until after you've already got one?

        I've already made a prototype. Only double the size (2*2*2), but also with eight times the capacity.

        Now where's my money?

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Oh look, another one.

      "only gets accepted for publication or considered by journalists after a working prototype is available"

      that wouldn't be scientific, that would be like "flat earth" thinking. Publishing 'unproven' ideas for peer review, PARTICULARLY before having a working prototype, is ALWAYS a good idea. It also helps you to establish ownership [they should get a provisional patent, too].

      I can think of many things that have fallen into the 'unproven' category (at least at one point in time), like Evolution, the Big Bang, nuclear power, Einstein's theories, black holes, and television. In fact, I understand that someone had constructed a model of a color picture tube using sugar cubes, and used THAT to obtain a patent, which RCA allegedly had to license before they could produce color TV picture tubes with multiple electron guns... so yeah, theory shouldn't be restricted from publication until "after a working prototype is available". That's just ridiculous.

      It's also a good strategy to publish FIRST (before you have a working prototype). In this case (as an example), battery makers should NOW 'want in' on their 'iron oxide' design. Some smart battery maker will likely invest some time+money into building prototypes, licensing the design with an really good contract, and maybe even having exclusive rights (for a little while, at least).

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Oh look, another one.

        Publishing to inner circles is one things, especially if the intent is peer review. I'm talking about publishing to the world at large because by my reckoning that's a half-truth (which is in turn twice the lie). My thought is, "If you're gonna sing it, be sure to bring it." Perhaps Beyond 2000 jaded me a bit. I mean, how many of these hypegasms (like holographic crystal storage, which was demonstrated in a lab 20 years ago, IIRC) have gone nowhere (or, like CFCs, turned out to be counterproductive)?

        1. The First Dave

          Re: Oh look, another one.

          On the contrary, what we need is MORE people publishing papers - far too often research that fails to produce anything with commercial potential is dumped unceremoniously, potentially resulting in other people repeating the same research.

          The saying goes "we learn more from failure than from success"

  3. Stuart Halliday

    What another battery announcement that promises cornucopia?

    Didn't we go through this same technology 8 years ago?

    This time it's a simulation and no clear idea of the actual boost in capacity?

    Smells of a pathetic attempt to raise a grant to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Smells of a pathetic attempt to raise a grant to me.

      Smells of proper scientific research to me. You, know, all that tedious business of examining the current facts, identifying a question, formulating a hypothesis, making predictions, testing those predictions, reviewing the theory......

      All the tech things we buy and use today started off as an unproven idea, often without any obvious commercial application, and probably followed on from a whole series of research ideas that came to little or nothing. Admittedly this won't be appearing in a battery for a decade, but so what? Are we to abandon all R&D that doesn't look likely to produce bankable benefits in three years?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "All the tech things we buy and use today started off as an unproven idea, [...]"

        IIRC the science of a MOSFET transistor was published in 1928. It took technology another 35 years to be able to produce them. The 1947 development of the point contact transistor was a relatively simple evolution of the crystal radio diode. It was quickly superseded by the junction transistor as the semiconductor processing technology improved.

        In the early 1940s a book was published on the long history of clock technologies. The final chapter described the latest developments using quartz crystal vacuum tube oscillators. The author confidently predicted that such accurate devices would be forever confined to laboratory environments due to their complexity and size.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Pint

        Smells of proper scientific research to me

        agreed. You sir, deserve a beer, AND upvote number 42!

  4. jmch Silver badge

    Nevertheless...

    Firstly, not sure why the quoted analyst was saying that it was only based on computer modelling, the article mentions 2 teams, one doing modelling and one doing physical experimentation. So what gives>

    Secondly, even if the analyst is right and it takes 10 years to production, and even if in the end the 'production' capacity improvement isn't 8X or even 2X or 3X but an eventual 1.5X, that's a 50% improvement which is not to be sniffed at.

    Current 'touring-type' electric cars like Tesla can do 500-ish km on a single charge, 50% increase brings it to 750-ish which is the limit of most modern diesels. How long did it take ICE car industry to get to that level of range? Having electric cars be able to replicate that within about 15 years is pretty neat

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Nevertheless...

      I'm highly interested in the return of phones that only need to be charged once a week. I don't give a flying f##k about a phone that only needs charging each 1.5 days instead of every single day.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nevertheless...

        Get rid of the crap on your phone, turn of GPS and wifi, turn down the brightness and you may be surprised how long it lasts

        I've a cheap as chips android POS for work with only email running and it lasts about 5 days.

        OK not the Nokia 6310i's month, but it's a start

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Nevertheless...

        DB dreams of "...phones....charged once a week..."

        If you sleep where electricity exists, then you plug it in overnight.

        1. DropBear Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Nevertheless...

          @Lost all faith... I already do all that - except for the WiFi: I'm kinda using that, seeing as how mobile data is very far from free for me while WiFi is. I'm even using an extra-thick extended battery, and I run almost nothing in the background. Result: less than three days. Not even a full weekend. Hella annoying especially if I spend it in a tent, away from chargers, and I'd actually like to browse a little or just read a book during some lull / downtime. And before you suggest "power bank": you'd be surprised how little cargo space bikes tend to have, and how fully packed it already is with other useless stuff like, say, rain gear and said tent.

          @JeffyPoooh sure, as long as I never, ever, ever forget to religiously plug it in to charge whenever I'm home. Clue: that's not the real world I live in. Not to mention I have no socket near my bed, and my phone is what (barely) wakes me up each morning so I can't leave it across the room overnight. Also, see above.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Nevertheless...

            "I already do all that - except for the WiFi: I'm kinda using that, seeing as how mobile data is very far from free for me while WiFi is"

            "Hella annoying especially if I spend it in a tent, away from chargers"

            you can get WiFi in your tent? Just where do you go camping? :P

      3. Filippo

        Re: Nevertheless...

        If battery tech improves so that capacity is increased by 50%, you are not going to get phones that last 50% longer. Instead, you are going to get phones that consume 50% more, owing to more powerful CPUs that run more crap in the background, more powerful GPUs that run pretty animations, and more radios running for more time. Either that, or they'll just make them another fraction of millimeter slimmer. The actual duration of the battery seems to be a pretty low priority.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Phones that charge once a week

          Yeah, not going to see that. They would probably make them thinner so that a folding phone becomes practical without being a half pound brick in your pocket.

          I don't agree with Filippo that they'd use these batteries to make phones that draw more power - power draw is limited by the heat output already so we aren't going to get a bigger power budget than what we have today.

          If you want a phone you charge once a week, get one of those 12000 mah battery cases...

        2. Dave Bell

          Re: Nevertheless...

          A better battery, more charge for the volume and weight, could mean smaller and lighter devices. Extra processing power often comes with more efficiency. A bit longer life as part of the deal is something that could be easy to sell.

          It may be that phones have become too thin, and that is forcing compromises on details such as the durability of the connector. Compare your mobile with the typical low-cost cordless phones on your landline. They're too bulky, but they don't feel fragile. A bit extra thickness might make a better data/power connector possible.

          Stepping back from the thinness race might make all the difference, without new battery tech.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Nevertheless...

            Cordless phones feel the way they do because people are used to holding the old corded handsets. Plus, they don't carry them around all day. When they're done, they go on a counter somewhere or back in their cradle, not into pockets like cell phones.

      4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Nevertheless...

        I'm highly interested in the return of phones that only need to be charged once a week.

        My Asus phone typically goes 4 or 5 days on a charge, which isn't "once a week" but is much, much better than any other Android phone I've had.

        If I shut down everything non-essential I could probably get it to last a week.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nevertheless...

      the article mentions 2 teams, one doing modelling and one doing physical experimentation. So what gives>

      Maybe the team doing physical experimentation couldn't actually make a working battery using this predicted technology. So the only thing they can report on is the computer model, which says it will work just fine and be 8 times better than anything else we have today.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nevertheless...

        They actually say that they have experimentally confirmed it, so they don't in fact just have a computer model. Indeed the press release explicitly recognises that without the experimental confirmation it wouldn't be much of a story.

    3. Joe Montana

      Re: Nevertheless...

      You miss the point with cars...

      Adding a larger fuel tank adds less weight to a vehicle than a larger battery. The range of diesel vehicles is limited by the size of tank, and a full tank of diesel still weighs less than a battery of a similar size/range.

      Electric cars have been around a LONG time, they've just only recently started to become popular again. The reason they fell out of favour was due to the weight and lack of range, milk floats were almost always electric because they were quiet and didnt require a long range or high speed etc.

      There's also the consideration of how fast you can recharge, and the availability of charging stations. A diesel car can be filled in a couple of minutes, and diesel is available almost everywhere... A battery takes longer to charge, and in doing so it occupies a charging slot for much longer than a diesel car does. On the other hand, once the infrastructure is in place the power can be transported far more quickly than liquid fuels.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Nevertheless...

        And 8x more capacity means either 8x longer to charge, or 8x the power needed to charge. Solving the capacity issue just moves the problem.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Nevertheless...

        "Adding a larger fuel tank adds less weight to a vehicle than a larger battery. The range of diesel vehicles is limited by the size of tank, and a full tank of diesel still weighs less than a battery of a similar size/range."

        Furthermore, it's possible to extend that range very easily. If it's for occasional use, a gerry can or two will easily tide you over should you drift away from civilization. If you frequently trek away from fuel stations, it may be worth it to get an additional fuel tank installed.

  5. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    x8, x 4, x2

    It's hard to see where the x8 comes from. The x4 seems unlikely. The x2 is theoretical. Have they modelled impurities etc? Even NiMH vary hugely on quality of materials and the best can equal LiPoly for volume (not weight) after 100 deep cycles. What effect on weight?

    So 5 to 10 years or never sounds likely as does 1.5 to x2 capacity (weight or volume?).

    How stable and flammable are these with Lithium and Oxygen in them? Note even iron filings burn rather hot in oxygen.

    Search: burning iron filings oxygen

    Hence icon.

    Lithium burns nicely. Even the non-chargeable CR2032 will burn/explode if heated via self discharge in a confined space due to short circuit of a stack.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: x8, x 4, x2

      "Even the non-chargeable CR2032 will burn/explode if heated via self discharge in a confined space due to short circuit of a stack."

      A solar powered garden light failed. On inspection there was a neat circular hole in the plastic container as the NiMh 300mah button cell burned its way through and disintegrated. Presumably an internal short circuit inside the battery - a replacement battery worked ok.

    2. HandleAlreadyTaken

      Re: x8, x 4, x2

      >Lithium burns nicely

      I have some bad news about gasoline for you...

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: x8, x 4, x2

        Oh? Can it burn IN water (not on, IN)?

        1. HandleAlreadyTaken

          Re: x8, x 4, x2

          >Can [gasoline] burn IN water (not on, IN)?

          I have some bad news about the environment where automobiles run for you...

      2. The First Dave

        Re: x8, x 4, x2

        Any kind of fire extinguisher, if used correctly, will put out a gasoline fire.

        Not quite the same when a battery short-circuits itself.

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: x8, x 4, x2

      I don't see where 8x comes from, but 4x seems quite easy to explain if they're able to use 4x the lithium. Presumably there's something else that gets the remaining 2x - can't tell since the paper is paywalled.

      Obviously that's theoretical and the real world has a nasty way of lowering theoretical limits, but a theoretical limit of 4x is at least quite believable.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: x8, x 4, x2

      Not that hard - they basically say that their chemistry leverages 8 electrons in its reactions to each one in a conventional Li-Ion. How it will scale up in the real world - who knows? But I do love how any and all battery stories now have to a compulsory 'but they can catch fire.....' comment based on vaguely misremembering dropping sodium in water at school, and reading about someone who set their underpants on fire by carelessly sitting on a mobile phone.

  6. ScottME
    Flame

    Reaction!

    Lithium, the most reactive metal in the universe, in the same package as oxygen. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reaction!

      Try it with Caesium

      1. manchesterj

        Re: Reaction!

        Or even Francium (but you'd get a prize for isolating it....)

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Reaction! - Try it with Caesium

        Lithium has a work function of 2.3eV, caesium 1.9eV.

        It's easier to start a fire with caesium, but lithium produces an awful lot more energy per gramme as they both have only one valency electron and the lithium atom is a lot lighter.

    2. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: Reaction!

      "Lithium, the most reactive metal in the universe, in the same package as oxygen. What could possibly go wrong?"

      The risk will depend on the actual chemical compounds that the lithium and oxygen are part of, you can't just make a statement based on the elements (otherwise who would have salt at the dinner table - a tasty mix of poisonous gas and explosive metal eh?)

      1. the spectacularly refined chap

        Re: Reaction!

        The risk will depend on the actual chemical compounds that the lithium and oxygen are part of, you can't just make a statement based on the elements (otherwise who would have salt at the dinner table - a tasty mix of poisonous gas and explosive metal eh?)

        Of course you can. This is literally school level chemistry: you do remember that table listing metals by reactivity don't you?

        Oh, of course you don't. If you did you'd also recall that the more reactive the elements, the more stable the compound. You obviously skipped class the day displacement reactions were covered.

        Although to be equally fair, the OP would also have recalled that for metals reactivity increases as you go down the periodic table.

      2. Kernel

        Re: Reaction!

        " (otherwise who would have salt at the dinner table - a tasty mix of poisonous gas and explosive metal eh?)"

        Or, just as bad, mix highly reactive (and toxic under the right conditions) gaseous oxygen with H2O, a substance which is known to facilitate many corrosive reactions - and what's even more reprehensible, allow these two substances to freely mix inside a living organism.

        I don't know about 'intelligent design' - more like thoughtless and down-right dangerous design if you ask me.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reaction!

      What could possibly go wrong?

      All risks are relative. If you had ten times the energy density of a current lithium battery you'd be around the energy density of gunpowder. But that's still in very rough terms a tenth of the energy density of petrol or diesel, which is a risk most people seem happy with, so for automotive use I think we can say that a worst case accident with this speculative battery technology is still going to be a whole lot safer than the worst case car accident for existing liquid or gas fuel technologies.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Reaction!

        Actaully your current li ion batteries are the same density as gun powder. Remember gun powder burns fast until confided just like li ion batteries .

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Reaction!

        "But that's still in very rough terms a tenth of the energy density of petrol or diesel"

        The difference is that in a lithium battery the reducer and oxidiser are separated only by a thin membrane and are both present in the same envelope, whereas for hydrocarbons the reducer and oxidant are separated by a steel wall, and the oxidiser is present at a density of only 0.27 grammes per litre. The risk is actually very much on the side of the battery. In an explosive, of course, reducer and oxidiser are usually simultaneously present in the same molecule, which is what makes them so interesting.

  7. M7S

    Maybe "ten years away"

    so this will make electric vehicles truly practical at about the same time we'll all be using Nuclear Fusion for free clean unlimited energy.

    I like predictions. They're even better than election manifestos

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Maybe "ten years away"

      Send me a copy of your electron manifesto!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Maybe "ten years away"

        I've read his electron manifesto.

        It's pretty negative.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Maybe "ten years away"

          It's all spin.

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Maybe "ten years away"

          I've read his electron manifesto.

          It's pretty negative.

          I got a charge out of it.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Maybe "ten years away"

          Think I have a copy. I'm just never sure exactly where it is.

  8. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Great News

    This is great - it means that in the future my phone could last a week without a charge.

    But, back in the real world, if it ever happens we'll just end up with even thinner phones because, apparently, that's what we want.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Great News

      This is great - it means that in the future my phone could last a week without a charge.

      So? Mine do that already.

    2. Tempest8008

      Re: Great News

      So....you want a Blackberry?

      Ah, the good ol' days.

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Great News

        Tempest - only if it's a 7320. They *were* good old days. The company issued them so we could pick up email and IT told me I'd look stupid when I asked them to enable the phone.

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Great News

      Well we've been hearing talk about folding phones for several years now. Those certainly aren't very practical at the current thickness, so they need to make them thinner so when they are folded it isn't a brick in your pocket.

      Plus a two way fold isn't terrible practical (who wants an essentially square screen when unfolded?) so you probably need to get thin enough for a trifold to be practical. I'd say they need to get to 3mm which when folded would be a 9mm device - weighing about 25% more than current phones but that should still be acceptable.

      1. Dave Bell

        Re: Great News

        It's a structural problem.

        Three cases in a folding stack are not going to have a third of the thickness of casing for each subunit, though a smaller unit might have a thinner case for the same stiffness. Can you make a reliable PCB at a third of the total thickness (and I doubt you can reduce the thickness of the metal conductors)? Can you expect a thinner touch-screen?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Great News

          Some of these 'issues' have already been solved, if you've never seen the Samsung YOUM screen have a look at this video of a working model, not a mock up.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg4PIXoFUM0

          However since 2013 Samsung seem to have gone a bit quiet on the technology, whether it's a production issue or a quality over time issue I don't know, but if they can crack whatevers the holdup then the possibility of a radical new design for phones is out there.

  9. TWB

    Let's give up trying

    Batteries are never going to be any good, so best we humans don't bother even trying.

    Why can't I have a tiny ICE in my phone/laptop etc to power it?

    My glass is half full.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Let's give up trying

      So we know when the CPU is pegged by the ICE throttling up, and overclocking just means using nitrous...? Hey, I like the way you think...!

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Let's give up trying

      Is your glass half full of gasoline or diesel? Because you'll need a different tiny ICE in your phone depending which fuel you use. Then people would complain that Apple builds in the phone's engine instead of being swappable like some Androids...

    3. Captain DaFt

      Re: Let's give up trying

      Why can't I have a tiny ICE in my phone/laptop etc to power it?

      Good question. MIT designed one way back in 2006.

      Of course, the "fuel and air quickly mix and burn at the melting point of steel." part might have been more of a problem than they thought. ☺

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's give up trying

      Whatever happened to fuel cells - or similar technologies that use a catalyst to produce energy from fuel?

  10. spider from mars

    Where are they now

    It might be instructive to go through a list of battery-breakthrough news stories from, say, 2013 (or even 2008), and find out what happened to them.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Where are they now

      At a typical breakthrough rate of 7/day for 4 years? Life's too short!

      But I think there is a more fundamental problem. I'm sure many of these 'breakthroughs' would actually work, and deliver an extra 10, 15, 20%. But the problem is that the field is moving so fast, and the cost of manufacture are so high, that anyone foolish enough to invest $10 Billion or whatever in manufacturing capacity will lose a lot of it as someone else can come along six months later with an even better mousetrap battery and wipe you out.

      Same problem with solar PV - price slowly comes down, performance slowly improves, but no-one can take the risk of the 'great leap forward', because someone else will come up with a slightly greater leap forward 3 months later.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Where are they now

        Solar PV has already passed the inflection point where the cost of the panels is less than the cost of installation for residential sized installations in high cost labor markets like the US.

        1. Dave Bell

          Re: Where are they now

          This may be why Elon Musk can sell fake roof tiles that generate solar power.

          American housing is, compared to Europe, a bit fragile, and roofing can need replacing more often. A solar panel system that can be fitted instead of roof tiles, instead of on top of them, could drop the labour costs a lot. I am not sure about the electrical connections, but total labour cost, compared to roof and solar panels, could be even less.

          A quick google show remarkably short roof life in the USA. But can people find the extra money today for a more durable roof?

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: Where are they now

            The problem is that asphalt shingles are cheap, and because most people don't make the choices on building materials for the house they live in - or if they do would rather spend extra money on a bigger house, bigger lot, specialized rooms like a home theater etc. instead of caring how long the roof will last. Architectural shingles are warrantied for 30 years, which is far longer than most people will live in their house. Why pay more for a roof that will last 100 years when you won't be around to see it need repair (other than storms, fire, etc.) either way?

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Where are they now

              "Why pay more for a roof that will last 100 years when you won't be around to see it need repair (other than storms, fire, etc.) either way?"

              Re-sale value? Sell a house where the buyer knows they won't have to spend $$$ on a new roof every 5 years?

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Where are they now

                Roofing doesn't tend to come up in housing discussions based on my experience. So it doesn't really affect the resale value unless it's blatantly shoddy.

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Lots of negativity here

    So, it might not work out. Still worth a try though, and personally I like to hear that some people still are pushing at the boundaries.

  12. Christian Berger Silver badge

    8 times longer battery times in mobile phones

    I find that highly dubious as we could already have much longer battery times if we just fitted propper batteries and used propper operating systems.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: 8 times longer battery times in mobile phones

      Sure if you wanted a 90s style brick phone that weighs three pounds you could have a month of battery life. There's no market for phones with a week of battery life, otherwise you'd see such phones that weigh a pound and are 20mm thick.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: 8 times longer battery times in mobile phones

        "There's no market for phones with a week of battery life, otherwise you'd see such phones that weigh a pound and are 20mm thick."

        And yet almost everyone I know is always whinging about battery life on their phone or keeping calls short "because my battery is low".

  13. joea

    H too, Oh

    Shame there is such a bias against Hydrogen, as in Fuel Cell, vehicles.

    The Toyota Mirai is an example of such a vehicle, apparently quite successful. Too bad the powers that be refuse to allow a support system to be built, California excepted that is.

    Personally, I'd rather have a vehicle I could "recharge" in minutes vs hours and one where I could use the heater and/or AC as needed, without cutting driving range so drastically as current all electrics do.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: H too, Oh

      Personally, I'd rather have a vehicle I could "recharge" in minutes vs hours

      So would I, but I'd also like one that still has liquid H2 in its tank after a week in the garage.

      1. joea

        Re: H too, Oh

        Do you have some real world citation for the insinuation that the Mirai "evaporates" fuel at that rate? I've not seen that claim anywhere else.

    2. Richard Gray 1
      Go

      Re: H too, Oh

      I always thought Hydrogen would be better in the long run.

      My idea would be to have containerized Hydrogen generators near(ish) wind turbines (I saw the generator on Click or something about a year ago), so that any excess energy gets converted into hydrogen, which could be turned back into electricity if demand required it at short notice.

      No transporting masses of fuel around the country in trucks, just produce it where it's needed. Ideal for rural economies.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: H too, Oh

      Unfortunately, the energy cost of extracting and compressing the hydrogen, coupled with the energy efficiency of the vehicles, makes hydrogen cars very poor performers.

      There is an excellent analysis of this in the free book at:

      https://www.withouthotair.com/

      In fact, here is the page:

      https://www.withouthotair.com/c20/page_129.shtml

      1. joea

        Re: H too, Oh

        So, your complaint is that Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles are not "Free Energy" vehicles?

        The cited article does not mention the Mirai, but only previous attempts. No idea if the Mirai gets better "mileage". Not much of an "analysis" from what I read, more of stated opinion with a few claimed facts tossed in.

        In any event, even the author states he is expects energy costs to be comparable (at some point?) to "fossil fuel" vehicles.

        So what? The proper comparison is Granny Smith to Golden Delicious. Electrics to Electrics that is.

        Don't forget to factor in the Lithium mining, refining, etc. and other production costs of the batteries. I think a proper full analysis has yet to be done.

    4. DanceMan

      Re: refuse to allow a support system to be built

      There is a small system operating in Japan now. I think the source is a wind turbine. Excess electricity is stored in used Prius batteries, if I'm not getting this confused with another system. But the power is used to generate and compress hydrogen which is delivered by tanker trucks to a nearby warehouse where it powers their forklifts. Small closed system. Unlike electric forklifts, these can either be used for a full shift or can be refilled quickly during a shift.

  14. Me19713

    Thermite?

    Is it safe to assume that these will burn like a thermite charge on steroids?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Thermite?

      No, unless you also assume table salt is poisonous and will burn if it gets wet.

  15. J J Carter Silver badge
    Boffin

    W00T!

    The iPhone XX will be 1mm thin and last for a week on one charge. Magical and game-changing.

    1. Hero Protagonist

      Re: W00T!

      Except Apple will make it .5mm thin and it will still only last a day

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: W00T!

        Except Apple will make it .5mm thin and it will still only last a day

        .5mm? Pshaw! The Apple iPhoneXX will be so thin, you can shave with it using Apple's exclusive Cutting Edge™ Technology!

        Finally, an iPhone you can't hold wrong!!*

        *Without losing a finger

  16. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Battery life and accessibilty

    ... are the two features I predicted will be the next areas for big news. Simply because without them, an entire mobile-device ecosystem built on the richer members of society will collapse.

    And we can't have that.

  17. Flakk Silver badge
    Trollface

    Using digital models, Northwestern found a specific mix of lithium, iron and oxygen ions that will allow the use of oxygen without it escaping the cell.

    Escaping, as in rapidly and violently?

  18. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Rust?

    'The design features an iron-oxide cathode'

    They mean rust right? Because my non-electric car already features that...

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Rust?

      There are an awful lot of different iron oxides.

      Common rust is Fe2O3: iron(III) oxide

      Iron II also forms oxides such as FeO: iron(II) oxide or FeO2: iron dioxide

      The fun starts with oxides containing mixtures of Iron II and Iron III such as magnetite (Fe3O4)

      Here's a few more

      Fe4O5

      Fe5O6

      Fe5O7

      Fe25O32

      Fe13O19

      Some of these can also by hydrated such as ferrihydrite 5Fe2O3 ⋅ 9H2O.

      There's a lot more to "Iron Oxide" than rust.

  19. Brian Allan 1

    Research results and real world results are often miles apart. Wait for the field test results before buying stock!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm more concerned about battery durability and safety

    Ideally, for a smartphone, a battery should not explode/short... and lithium is unfortunately a volatile material by nature.

    Also, the battery should preferably last beyond your typical 2-year phone contract duration with moderate usage. That means the % charge loss per year should be negligible.

    The future of the battery is graphene, and no lithium-based batteries are going to meet the needs of future technology.

    http://www.scmp.com/tech/science-research/article/2127032/instant-charging-your-iphone-chinese-researchers-make-advance

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I'm more concerned about battery durability and safety

      Tell me, where are you going to get the power needed to recharge a 3Ah smartphone battery in a few seconds? The prototype battery mentioned in the article only had a measly 30mAh capacity, and you have to wonder what kind of effects can happen once you scale up.

  21. Aynon Yuser

    These "new" and "incredible" "advances" that are designed to make our world a better place, more comfortable, and oh it's going to be oh so cheap. Most of all of these wonderful advances never amount to anything in the real world. What about that kid who designed and energy efficient solar solution to convert sea water into drinkable water that would save the poorer countries? As one example. It never happened. What about the cure for hepatitis c? Only for the rich even in Canada/USA. Corporations and even our governments completely understand that it's more profitable to keep the poor people sick.

    All of these wonderful discoveries are never in the interest to help humanity as a whole. These things are always held back otherwise the billionaire corporations would end up losing billions.

    It's all about profit, and nothing more.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Corporations and even our governments completely understand that it's more profitable to keep the poor people sick."

      But that one invention you mentioned was made by an individual, meaning an upstart. Upstarts would be perfectly motivated to bankrupt the billionaire businesses unless they're capable of making Mafia-type "offers you can't refuse."

      PS. Why is it in the government's interest to keep taxpayers sick (bankrupting them so they go on the public dole and become tax-TAKERS) and at risk of dying (meaning they LOSE the taxpayer)? Private phama companies, yes, because it means repeat business, but governments? It'd be a losing proposition.

  22. Herby Silver badge

    Getting clost to being explosive...

    As batteries get more "efficient", they approach being explosive devices. The problem is that the batteries are self contained energy devices, whereas common fuels (diesel, petrol/gasoline) need to be supplied with oxygen form the air to be useful.

    Another way to have self contained energy sources, is to use hypergolic fuels (rockets use these). At least they are binary in nature and need both parts to generate heat.

    This is the reason that batteries catch fire/explode all by themselves. Not fun.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Getting clost to being explosive...

      "Impressive. Every word in that sentence was wrong."

  23. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Alert

    8x worse failures a possibility? (speculative)

    Others have mentioned this as well I'm sure, though I haven't read through all the comments.

    I'm a bit concerned with one of these failing if it packs 8x the energy density of a standard Li-ion battery, plus oxygen as a bonus. If a standard Li-ion battery packs approximately the energy density of an equivalent amount of TNT (although it releases it much slower, even in a failure), I expect a catastrophic failure of a device with 8x the energy would turn a bad day where someone's phone or other personal device burns up and causes some burns and significant personal injury to a really bad day with lethal consequences. And I wonder if after the first failure or two, if these will even be permitted on passenger aircraft? With 8x the energy, a clever baddie wouldn't even need to smuggle a bomb onboard a plane--just rig a big battery with the safety protocols disabled to short circuit.

  24. ocratato

    A bright future for batteries

    As usual for this sort of article it gets a heap of comments along the lines of "Wake me up when I can buy one". However I think most of us can distinguish between an article announcing a new product we can buy from an article on some preliminary research.

    What I find interesting is that there is still a lot of potential for improvement in batteries. This article shows that there is potentially at least eight times the power density available. It may take a lot of engineering effort to realise that potential, but we now have an idea where we might end up.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: A bright future for batteries

      "However I think most of us can distinguish between an article announcing a new product we can buy from an article on some preliminary research."

      Yeah. So far, the former has never appeared.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nO DisAssEmBlE

    This is going to be messy. (fx: Benjamin Jabatuya voice)

    Interestingly Samsung never got back to me about my idea to scan Li-ion pouch cells using magnetic fields as a lot of the typical components (eg CoO2) have a well defined hysteresis curve.

    So a relatively simple scanning magnetometer would be an ideal way to examine cells post assembly for hidden flaws that might not show up on an X-ray densitometer.

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