The biggest hurdle to technological advancement

in life •  11 months ago

I believe our biggest hurdle to major technological advancements comes down to batteries. Our energy storage technology is pathetic but it is crucial for most of our modern technology.

If you ever owned an iPhone, you likely have had it die before a full day even if it has had a full charge before you left home. You also likely noticed after about 6 months the battery no longer lasts as long. By around two years it is likey working at around 50% efficiency. I don't own an Apple Watch but I hear there are similar problems.

It isn't just mobile phones

As a big maker fan (do it yourself electronics, 3D Printing, and building your own gadgets) power is a constant problem. I am a big fan of the Raspberry Pi and Arduino but for most projects, the power source is a big factor. If I'm lucky, I can just plug it in the wall and don't need portability. Many maker projects are small and require some form of battery.

Raspberry Pi

Arduino

Power Cord Hell

Even if you have the luxury of using a power cord and don't need mobility, you have yet another power cord and a clunky wall wart.


Source

The majority of devices being released today depend on batteries. The Fitbit, mobile phones, smart watches, cameras, laptops, fire detectors, power tools, console controllers, even simple things such as thermostats. If I was to guess, the average person has hundreds of batteries in their house.

How many times has your Xbox or PlayStation controller died on you in the middle of a game?


Not only is size and weight influenced by the battery choice, performance is heavily determined by the available power source. This can be seen in the recent lawsuit against Apple for slowing down older iPhones as a result of declining battery power.

The lack of batteries is also the result of our poor energy storage technology. Many devices could be completely wireless if there were better battery technology and a way to easily wirelessly charge devices. There are multiple technologies being worked on that allow wireless charging for an entire room or even an entire house not just in close proximity, like the standard Qi Charging plates.

Qi Charging Pad


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If you're a geek, and love technology you need to deal with hundreds of cords and tens of devices to charge on a daily basis. As much as technology makes our lives better, it also ties us down to endless maintenance and babysitting.

I don't even want to think about how much waste and real estate used in landfills for disposable batteries. Batteries are highly toxic to humans and the environment, minimizing the amount of them thrown away will go a long way for the health and safety of our planet.

There are lots of portable energy storage (battery) technologies in development, but the speed they are released and the percentage of improvement are depressing. If we can solve our energy storage problem, so many other fields can advance rapidly.

Solar requires a large number of battery storage to be effective, some homes have to have large portions of their basement dedicated to batteries.

Solar Power Battery Storage


Source

If you have ever been to a data center, the amount of batteries they have to have is mind-blowing. I can't find a good picture that is even close to what my local data center has, but this just gives you a small idea.

Data Center Battery Backup Farm


Source

The problem is amplified when you consider the lifespan and cost of batteries. In just 6 months the effective life of a rechargeable battery is severely diminished, by 2 years it is around half as effective. Hybrid and Electric cars depend on large batteries to function and to replace those batteries cost upwards of $5,000. They also add a lot of weight to the vehicle that decreases the efficiency dramatically.

If we can advance our battery technology, we will open the doors for much more useful technology and a far less frustrating lifestyle.

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Ultracapacitors would seem to offer a different and potentially useful path. I have an ultra capacitor based high performance flashlight and its advantages over traditional batteries are amazing.

This is exactly the reason I have a charging cradle for my PS4 controllers as well as a Plug and Charge kit for Xbox One. It's a shame batteries don't gradually evolve with the rest of technology. You hear "incredible battery improvements" and "fully charged in a minute" all the time in the news, but it just takes too long until we see it in consumer products. I really hope higher capacity batteries and/or super fast charging takes off soon. Might even make smartphones a hell of a lot more powerful if manufacturers have to worry less about energy loss. Personally I can't stand those low-power 'U' processors in laptops, haha.

I once imagined if nuclear energy could use batteries in a device that we use everyday. We do not have to charge again until the device is damaged. Maybe in the future the technology can be realized.

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I know it is stupid, but I am still scared of Nuclear. Granted it is the solution moving forward to solve our massive power demands, but having in my pocket would freak me the fuck out.

New tech will change all those battery industry revelation. Battery storage will be much smaller and easy to handle

Queue the Matrix. There are a lot of people who would contribute more to society as batteries anyway.

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There's already a bed that extracts energy from your body while you lay down.

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Thats creepy

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Want creepy? My son and I put out a new Funko Pop on each of our desks daily.
This is what he gave me for the day.

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He got it in one of those random boxes. Hopefully some day he gets lost.

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Face up, using up your body warmth and etc.... but there is already a bed or a project that uses the moments where you use the bed and produce the most energy... cof sexy time cof... and a rocking chair that produces electricity by harnessing the kinectic energy of the motion. Cool stuff. here's an article that mentions the last two if you're interested (it's not mine by the way) https://www.good.is/articles/ecotypic-bed-lets-you-generate-energy-in-your-bedroom

Very educational read, agree with the battery technology does not grow exponentially like processing speed and storage

Here we are, 50 years ago they said they flew to the moon. And now they still can’t make phone batteries without having to recharge them at least twice a day. Resteemed!

Great post!

Great post. I didn't know Arduino had such high power consumption. Very interesting points. It's crazy how reserves deplete in energy storage banks within just 6 mos. That's insane.

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Arduino isn't very high consumption, in fact, it is tiny and can be run off a watch battery for a long time. The problem is you almost always have something else attached that takes far more power, like LED's, motors, or displays.

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Ok that makes more sense. I worked with Arduino a couple years ago in NanoRobotics at University and didn't recall have a power consumption issues. The attachments were a different story. Thanks for clearing that up @themarkymark & @isnochys

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Depending on the model and what you want do with it.
It can run on a battery for a year.

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Little Blue Bean I think can run over a year on a coin battery.
It's all the other stuff you add that sucks up the power.

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Amazing!

Li-ion battery with graphene balls could be a deal changer, as they are allow fast charging (5x times faster) with high energy densities (Nature-article).

Very interesting post!
Very interesting to see.

You need to also take into account the fact that graphic and processing power is increasing exponentially. So developing batteries that can at least last just as before while powering more “power” must be very challenging.

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I don't know, CPU/GPU tech has not been increasing anywhere near as fast as it used to be. Most of the focus is on mobile tech.

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That’s what I meant, for example everytime Apple releases a new iOS device it always is like twice faster than the previous generation.

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Screen and mobile connections are still power consumer no. 1

If we master the art of energy storage we can travel light years a giant leap for mankind on the offering .

Great post man. It's pathetic we still can not store electricity or have to recharge batteries. Actually, it's even more pathetic that we still use wires to transfer electricity.

my father is a HUGE believer in Lithium. He invests every penny into Lithium stocks. I'm sure better batteries will come out.

Now at days the battery is a main part among the people when it comes to the smart phone as well.

https://www.tesla.com/powerwall

Sorry if I missed this in your post.

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They came out a few years ago, very expensive but a much cleaner way to do batteries for solar.

This Power storage device sector will keep on Improving. With advancements in Nanotechnology this sector is posied to rise exponentially. In future most products would be able to store energy. I think 10 years later this sector will be on whole new level.

"If we can solve our energy storage problem, so many other fields can advance rapidly."

The thing is just tiring to think of because there is nothing can achieve without power and of which you have to make provisions for it especially here in Africa. The cost for power is enormous.

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It won't be long when you can walk into your house and your phone starts charging automatically. There are a few things in development now like wifi based charging that will likely make it's way into most public areas.

Hang out in Starbucks, go to the mall, run to Walmart, your phone is charging in your pocket.

Who knows what it means for your brain cells.