Solid State Bat­ter­ies

Gary Mar­shall goes pan­ning in the river of ru­mour for nuggets of knowl­edge

Mac Format - - NEXT MONTH -

The new Mac­Book’s im­pres­sively tiny moth­er­board and gen­uinely clever bat­tery de­sign are try­ing to com­pen­sate for a fun­da­men­tal prob­lem: you can only squeeze so much juice out of a lithium bat­tery. Ap­ple has made its bat­ter­ies big­ger, has found in­ge­nious ways of fit­ting them in­side de­vices and has op­ti­mised those de­vices in­cred­i­bly well. But it keeps run­ning up against some fun­da­men­tal laws of physics and chem­istry. So Ap­ple’s work­ing on some­thing else. In 2013, the US Patent and Trade­mark Of­fice pub­lished an Ap­ple patent ap­pli­ca­tion that de­scribed charg­ing tech­niques for a kind of bat­tery called a solid state bat­tery. Where nor­mal bat­ter­ies use liq­uid elec­trolytes, solid state ones – as the name sug­gests – use solid ones. That means they can be pack­aged much more densely than tra­di­tional bat­ter­ies, and at present they last three to four times longer than cur­rent bat­ter­ies.

There are other ad­van­tages. Solid state bat­ter­ies don’t leak, don’t go on fire and need less cool­ing. You can also make them into in­ter­est­ing and/or flex­i­ble shapes, which makes them par­tic­u­larly use­ful for por­ta­ble and wear­able de­vices.

An Ap­ple Watch whose en­tire strap is a bat­tery, or an iPhone so thin you can use it to chop veg­eta­bles, are en­tic­ing prospects. You can see why firms such as Toy­ota and Dyson are also in­vest­ing in the tech­nol­ogy: the po­ten­tial for the for­mer’s elec­tric ve­hi­cles and the lat­ter’s high-tech vac­uum clean­ers are enor­mous.

The down­sides? Solid state bat­ter­ies aren’t as con­duc­tive as liq­uid ones and that can limit power out­put. And like any nascent tech­nol­ogy, cur­rently, prices are high and man­u­fac­tur­ing yields are low. But those is­sues can be fixed by smart peo­ple wav­ing big piles of money. And Ap­ple isn’t short of ei­ther.

Solid state bat­ter­ies don’t leak, don’t catch fire and can last three to four times longer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.