The Battery Issue: The past, present, and future of the lithium-ion battery

“In 1800, Alessandro Volta invented the first version of the thing we now call a battery,” Michael Zelenko reports for The Verge. “We’ve come a long way from his initial gadget to the lithium-ion batteries that power much of our lives, including our phones, batteries, cars, satellites, and more.”

“Batteries are undergoing a kind of renaissance. They’re more powerful than ever, and we’ve gotten smarter about how to use them,” Zelenko reports. “Besides being an important part of our everyday lives — who doesn’t get stressed out when their phone is at 9 percent? — they’re also playing a role in storing renewable energy.”

“This workhorse technology influences a lot more than just tech. Some gaming systems depend on battery-powered controllers, and in order for movie protagonists to be truly isolated, their phones must be drained of power. Fast-charging stations are more important than ever. Scientists and engineers are trying to figure out how to make even better batteries, ones that are less likely to explode and able to hold even more energy,” Zelenko reports. “We’re taking a week to celebrate the humble battery and its influence on technology, culture, science, and transportation. You can expect new stories or videos daily. If you’re reading this on a smartphone, after all, you have your battery to thank.”

Ton more in the full feature – recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: We’ve come a long way, but not nearly far enough. Batteries (and their limitations) are one of the single biggest chokepoints on innovation today.


  1. The engineer will tell you:

    Price, Quality, Schedule: Pick two.

    The Verge hyperbole and reporting style is annoying. They act as if a battery is only used for portable consumer electronics and cars.

    Reality is that the one of the biggest future uses for batteries will be for buffers on the power grid and with standalone power generating systems. That solar panel on your new California bungalow is going to need reliable cheap batteries to power your expensive abode all night when the sun isn’t shining. Those batteries don’t need to be lightweight, they don’t need to be able to charge or discharge in seconds, and they don’t need to fit into Ive-shaped thin devices.

    That said, the Verge is obviously correct that when cost effective, the solid state lithium polymer batteries will supplant lithium ion batteries soon. They will, like all batteries, come with tradeoffs. Hopefully the designers at Apple will embrace superior performance instead of over-emphasizing meaningless metrics like thinness.

    Finally: the obligatory safety blurb appears whenever anyone talks about lithium batteries. What they fail to state is that, despite how spectacular a lithium ion fire can be, many liquid and gaseous fuels are significantly less safe. Statistically speaking, gasoline is about the worst fuel for safety and yet everyone accepts the risk because familiarity and low price, plus well over a century of commercialization, makes people accepting of a highly explosive fuel in their garages. Flight crews on airplanes have procedures to contain lithium ion battery device fires. But the flying public is not allowed to bring aboard any flammable fuels, not even a tiny butane lighter wrapped and sealed in a box. What does that tell you?

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