Mobile devices have transformed our lives, giving us the freedom to talk, work, listen to audio and watch video while moving. But disconnected from electricity grids, its use is well constrained by the capacity of the battery. And that’s where the problem lies. While scientists are constantly dreaming of new ways to generate and store energy, technology for the manufacture of batteries has changed very little over the past 50 years, particularly when compared with the progress of the devices that drive. As Tim Probert, editor of the Energy Storage says “the battery industry is very conservative. ”We are still using very old technology in batteries, such as lead acid”.
Technological advances are great, but you have to be realistic, this industry works with small improvements and slower increases.
A SLOWER PACE
The humble AA battery has been around since 1940 and is based on the technology of the nineteenth century. But still, it covers 15% of the global market for batteries, along with other alkaline batteries. And it is based on the battery lead acid, which is used by most of the vehicles, was invented over 150 years ago and still has a 20% market share. Clearly the industry, mobilizing almost U.S. $ 90 billion globally, are off pace of advances in electronics. Even the ubiquitous rechargeable lithium battery, which powers most modern devices, was invented in 1970 and represents 40% of the market.
Tesla, a pioneer company in manufacturing electric vehicles, using the so-called lithium 18650 cells, which are essentially old-laptop-batteries for powering vehicles, says Probert. Most notebook manufacturers stopped using these batteries long ago, but Tesla believed that this old technology still has future plans and even create your own “gigafactoría” to produce them.
“Through the use of smaller cylindrical cells, have been able to save on manufacturing costs”, says Laura Hardy, an official of Tesla. 7000 Gathering of these cells, the model of Tesla S Sedan can exceed 480 kilometers, far more than its competitors that use batteries with more advanced technology.
Most battery manufacturers use other technology that involves placing a lithium cells together with other like slices of bread. The danger here is that a thermal runaway occurs when a cell shorting and produce too much heat and this leads to the battery to explode.
It is believed that this is what happened to a passenger plane Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Japan early last year. The Japan Airlines detected smoke from aircraft battery two hours before it was scheduled to take off from Tokyo.
The next generation of lithium batteries can help solve this problem, by replacing flammable liquid with solid components that are safer. Some companies are trying to develop batteries based on lithium sulfide, which promises five times more power than standard lithium ion battery. Probert says the British company Oxis Energy is making real progress in this area, but warns that we should not expect breakthrough in the near future.
The most interesting developments are happening beyond the field of battery technology. The first example is the wireless energy, which involves charging devices without having to connect them to the mains.
This market could be worth about U.S. $ 5,000 million by 2016, according to the U.S. firm IMS Research. A pioneering technology company is Ossia , which has its remote power system called Dimension. The founder and chief executive of the firm, Hatem Zeine, had the idea to create height while researching the management of wireless signals. Zeine discovered that radio waves carry a small amount of energy and decided to investigate how to tune the signals from multiple antennas working in unison to achieve recharge electrical devices remotely.
“The receiver sends a signal to the charger, it also sends a signal from its thousands of antennas, which go directly to the receiver. Way, the receiver tracks the device constantly”, says Zeine.
The benefits are obvious. You never have to worry about recharging your phone or laptop because it automatically loads whenever you are within reach of the charger. This means that the battery does not have to store a lot of energy and therefore can be smaller, the holy grail of electronics manufacturers. Zeine envisions a future in which fewer electrical outlets needed, because remote chargers will be installed everywhere, in homes, offices, public buildings, vehicles and trains.
WATER IN AND WATER OUT
Meanwhile, the Swedish company has developed myFC Powertrekk a kind of portable fuel cells that can generate energy to power all kinds of electrical appliances. “Our portable cell is an electrochemical device that converts hydrogen into protons and electrons. Protons go through a membrane and react with oxygen; generating water”, explains Bjorn Westerholm, the CEO of myFC.
Powertrekk initially recharge a lithium battery, but once it is fully charged, the fuel cell begins operating. From here, it is this kind of fuel cell that recharges the battery. This means you can load a device with water and a small cartridge to channel water at any time and wherever you like. Powertrekk is for sale in 24 countries and has sold about 10,000 units in a year.
Since about 2000 million mobile phones and tablets are sold every year, there is great potential, says Westerholm. While battery technology will continue to evolve so slowly, there will always be enough for entrepreneurs who want to venture into this market space.