Searching For a Better Battery, with Brad Templeton

In this day and age, we and our gadgets are limited by the archaic ways we store our power. Tech guru Brad Templeton explains that a breakthrough in battery technology would spark an exciting wave of innovation and enable the future of computing to be realized.

If you were to open up your phone (that is, if you still have a phone that can easily be opened), you'd find that the largest, heaviest component of the technology isn't the magical wiring that grants you 24/7 access to cat photos. It's not even the memory that allows you to store those cat photos for future use. Rather, the heaviest piece of your phone is the battery. And as Singularity University's Brad Templeton explains in his Big Think interview, those weighty bits are holding us down in more ways than just one.

Computer technology is limited by the pesky principles of power consumption. The reason we can't take a major next step with the personal computer is because our chips would melt if they were run any faster. There's only so far our current setup will go.

"If you looked inside a modern desktop computer you've probably seen it's got a big tower with silver veins and fan blowing on it. That's to get all the heat out. And that's making it hard to make the desktop computers faster."

But when it comes to pocket technology (and beyond), Templeton explains how innovative restraints are set by the limitations of power storage. No matter how impressive our iPhones and electric cars become, we're still subject to the whims of our chargers. Our 21st century gadgets are being handicapped by 20th century power storage:

"This is an area where breakthroughs are needed for cars, as well as for devices we have in our pockets, and even for storing power that's generated from the power grid. We really would love to switch to renewal power like solar and wind, but the problem is that these only come when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing and so you need to store the power to use at a later time and that's actually a pretty difficult challenge."

Raising the ceiling of our innovative potential requires new advances in battery technology. Just imagine where our technology could go if we weren't weighted down by our big hulking bits of power storage. Templeton notes that there are plenty of people searching for this much-needed breakthrough, yet real innovation won't be possible until researchers are able to get ideas off the blackboard and put into practice. In this arena, theory gets us nowhere.

"You have to really make it commercializiable before you can say you have it and that hasn't happened yet."

For more on this topic from Brad Templeton, check out the following clip from his Big Think interview:














LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less