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Batteries fuel high tech growth

April 9, 2010 - Art Smith

There’s been a lot of news coverage about the Apple iPad released last week. I’m sure it will be a big hit. In fact, it might make reading cool again.

There are a lot of interesting technologies in use with the computer/e-reader/iphone without-a-phone device that would have made it unlikely a few years ago.

Powering the tablet is what most would consider mundane. The battery. On a full charge, Apple claims it will power the iPad for 10 hours.

Long battery life is achieved two ways, by building better batteries, and by designing things to use less power in the first place. The iPad achieves the daylong battery life by doing both.

Because it is larger than the iphone/ipod touch that it is so often compared to, it has more room for a large battery; the device also has specially designed chips that use less power.

The development of new and better ways to store electrical energy has kicked into high gear the last few years because several much larger technologies will directly benefit from it.

Your car
Hybrids have giant batteries in them that stores the energy captured when stopping to be used later when accelerating. The more efficient the batteries, the higher the gas mileage of the car be driven. Electric cars, of course, depend totally on their batteries, and the effectiveness of them to keep them moving down the road.

Your home
The valley is home to three coal powered electric plants; they produce power for hundreds of thousands of people and businesses both here and elsewhere. They are a conventional energy source that produces power nearly on demand. Several natural gas powered generation stations that can be brought online very quickly supplement them. Both natural gas and coal are of course non-renewable resource.

As the country works harder to produce electricity from alternative sources batteries will become even more important.

Solar energy is great, until it gets dark – or cloudy. Wind energy is great, until the wind stops. Some plans I’ve read call for home-based batteries that would span the 15 minutes between when the wind quits, or the sky gets cloudy and when conventional power plants can be brought online. Most ideas use the same type of batteries developed for electric cars.

Consumers today have a lot of devices that depend on batteries to keep them running. The development of high output, efficient batteries for consumer products like cell phones and iPads and electric cars could likely have an impact on everything that we need power for.


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