It is impossible to imagine life without consuming power. We use it on every-day basis and even sometimes do not think much what kind of power we are utilizing and whether it is safe and efficient enough.
One of the most relevant problems that face the modern world at the present moment is making energy sources more mobile and saving natural resources. Batteries, as the source of energy, have the very long history of development. They are first mentioned to be used in the late 18th century by Luigi Galvani, who combined brass and iron plates in the laboratory in order to produce the current of electricity. But that type of batter was not practical, and only in the middle of the 19th century the world saw the first practical variant of the battery that had awkward design, was very heavy and contained toxic chemical substances, but still was very successful. Interesting fact is that it required liquid electrolyte solution to operate; dry cells appeared only at the end of the 19th century.
Developing technologies and car industry is constantly pushing battery technologies forward, as what is available at the present moment – high-tech batteries for mobile phones and notebooks are incompatible to be used in cars, as they do not produce enough power and they are not expected to deliver power very quickly. And there is a great demand on the market in batteries that deliver energy faster to be used in electric cars. So, as I have already mentioned, batteries for cell phones- lithium ion batteries- are the most practical. But they take a lot of time to charge and discharge, and that also makes them impractical to be used in cars. The reason of being slow is that ions inside have to move for long distances to do what is expected from them. Delft University of Technology researches are trying to create the nanostructure in present batteries to reduce the distances and in such a manner speed up their flow. One of the most serious problems with ion lithium batteries is that they release oxygen bound up in their chemicals that can be the reason of explosion or fire.
Nowadays world automotive corporations are striving to create the car that will use significantly less amount of gasoline- an electric car. For doing this they are establishing partnerships with technology providers. In such a manner, Toyota cooperates with Matsushita, and Nissan Corporation cooperates with NEC Corporation. Toyota and Matsushita venture established the monopoly for production of nickel metal-hybrid batteries that are involved in Prius production.
Electric cars nowadays are able to run around 100 miles on one charge, but the problem with batteries used is that they are very heavy. So, the great task of technologists is to reduce the battery’s size and to preserve all necessary parameters.
Returning to Prius production, it is essential to mention that the car’s battery is charged with gasoline engine and it uses the energy from breaking. So, when the car needs less power- produced electricity is involved. There is also an extra battery in Pruis’s trunk that can be charged from household current.
General motors also launched the production of Volt concept car, the battery of which can last for about 40 miles. It is more then enough for average drivers. It is also much cheaper and ecological then use of gasoline. Such batteries became the reality as improved lithium ion A123, in which cobalt as replaced by iron phosphate, which doesn’t give up its oxygen molecules. It is also much cheaper then cobalt.
Another approach to improve lithium ion batteries was introduced by engineers from University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The new manufacturing technique implied the substitution of having the electrode from on side and anode on the other with the porous electrode with the anode that penetrates the pores. Mentioned substitution allows quicker exchange of electrons through greater surface.
So, in the conclusion it is possible to list five developments for batteries. First, is that batteries now achieved such high level of their development that they are able to reach their real expected efficiency. Along with improving and updating lithium ion batteries, researchers from all over the world are trying to find new ways of making power portable. In such a manner, plastic batteries with polypyrrole were developed by Brown University researchers and they received the Nobel Prize for that. Second development is that lithium ion batteries are so far irreplaceable when the large amount of power is needed- in automobiles, as power received is the most cheap, ecologically clean and off-peak in work. The third aspect is that there will appear many business opportunities for components suppliers for plug-in hybrids. The fourth point concerns the new nanotech battery design that is referred to as ultra-capacitor, which became the revolutionary change in the batteries essence for the last two centuries. All conventional batteries work on the principle of moving electrons through chemical reactions, but in 2005 researchers of MIT at the 15th International Seminar in Florida, Deerfield Beach, presented ultra-capacitor that was able to store energy as an electrical field. It was the transformation of storing power on the atomic level, be means of nano-tubes. The new ultra-capacitor has the following advantages: long life-time (about a decade), rapid charging speed, shock and vibration resistance, and long-lasting charge.
And the final aspect is that when humanity will receive really efficient sources of mobile energy it will be on another stage of interacting with technologies, as well as technologies will rise on a completely different level. Use of sun and wind power will become more spread and effective and such energy will not only be gathered and used directly, but also its storage for further use will become possible.
In the conclusion I would like to summarize that batteries walked a long way from being huge and non-convenient to becoming compact and effective, but their way to efficiency is not finished yet, and even more, the real potential of batteries is only becoming to reveal.