The Wall Street Journal’s Chistopher Mims writes that scientist working on enhancing battery technology could make a breakthrough that would increase capacity by double digit percentages.
Predictions like these come often. Fusion power has been “just 10 years away” for 50 years. And battery technology has been about to make a giant leap forward for some time now.
The most encouraging part of Mims’ prediction is that this time, many researchers are working on battery technology, and they have a lot of money behind their efforts.
The next wave of batteries, long in the pipeline, is ready for commercialization. This will mean, among other things, phones with 10% to 30% more battery life, or phones with the same battery life but faster and lighter or with brighter screens. We’ll see more cellular-connected wearables. As this technology becomes widespread, makers of electric vehiclesand home storage batteries will be able to knock thousands of dollars off their prices over the next five to 10 years. Makers of electric aircraft will be able to explore new designs.
There is a limit to how far lithium-ion batteries can take us; surprisingly, it’s about twice their current capacity. The small, single-digit percentage improvements we see year after year typically are because of improvements in how they are made, such as small tweaks to their chemistry or new techniques for filling battery cells with lithium-rich electrolyte. What’s coming is a more fundamental change to the materials that make up a battery.
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