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Battery science has traditionally been the slowpoke of the technological industry. Look at a few of its competitors – in the last fifty years, screens have gone from black-and-white to color; from grainy cathode ray tube screens to high-definition plasma. Computers that used to be housed in gigantic warehouses, using thousands of vacuum tubes, are now overpowered by tiny boxes that sit on every college students’ desk. Processors, found in most modern devices, are built on an atomic scale.
Yet the batteries we use today are still based upon the same technology that was developed by Alessandro Volta over two hundred years ago. They are large, lose electrical charge with time, can leak dangerous acids, and even sometimes explode with misuse. But now, there comes new technology to finally replace the old – the nanobattery.
There are a few projects working with nanobattery technology, and one such endeavor comes from MIT’s Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES), which is improving on the design of ultracapacitors. TerraDaily writes:
“Today’s ultracapacitors use electrodes made of activated carbon, which is extremely porous and therefore has a very large surface area. However, the pores in the carbon are irregular in size and shape, which reduces efficiency. The vertically aligned nanotubes in the LEES ultracapacitor have a regular shape, and a size that is only several atomic diameters in width. The result is a significantly more effective surface area, which equates to significantly increased storage capacity.”
Unfortunately, most nanobatteries are still too expensive or impractical to be put to everyday use. Initially the technology will probably be used mostly in medical devices, military applications, and emergencies. But as is true with most technology, increases in production will likely result in decreases in cost. Perhaps one day soon the general public will enjoy laptop batteries which can hold a charge long enough to actually allow one to finish wri