Brad Templeton: Searching For a Better Battery

A breakthrough in battery technology would spark a wave of exciting tech innovations.

Brad Templeton: One of the biggest barriers in making computers faster is how much power they consume. And in fact, one thing that stopped your computer from having a faster clock rate, where it used to be it was another gigahertz every year you double that clock rate, is that that requires a lot of energy. And it's so much that your chips would melt if we ran them a lot faster. And 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. In your pocket you're limited by what the battery can do. And we have had better battery chemistries over time, but again 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. Batteries are one potential way to do it, pumping water uphill is a way to do it if you have reservoirs, but that itself presents its own some challenge.

Now when you get down to the battery you've probably, if you've ever looked inside a modern phone, that is if you have one you can open anymore, you've probably seen that most of that phone is actually the battery. That's the thing which is giving you all the weight. It's the thing that makes an iPad hard to hold in your hands because it's got a big heavy battery. We would love to see improvement in that. There are lots of things in the lab, but there's a pretty important rule that people have come to understand. When someone tells you "I can do this in the lab. I can make it for a dollar a kilogram." Or whatever it is the price they think they can do, the correct answer says "Okay I'll order a bunch." And then I'll say "Oh wait I can't actually deliver them to you." So you have to really make it commercializiable before you can say you have it and that hasn't happened yet.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

 

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.

The strange case of the dead-but-not-dead Tibetan monks

For some reason, the bodies of deceased monks stay "fresh" for a long time.

Credit: MICHEL/Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • The bodies of some Tibetan monks remain "fresh" after what appears to be their death.
  • Their fellow monks say they're not dead yet but in a deep, final meditative state called "thukdam."
  • Science has not found any evidence of lingering EEG activity after death in thukdam monks.
  • Keep reading Show less

    What do Olympic gymnasts and star-forming clouds have in common?

    When Olympic athletes perform dazzling feats of athletic prowess, they are using the same principles of physics that gave birth to stars and planets.

    Credit: sportpoint via Adobe Stock
    13-8
    • Much of the beauty of gymnastics comes from the physics principle called the conservation of angular momentum.
    • Conservation of angular momentum tells us that when a spinning object changes how its matter is distributed, it changes its rate of spin.
    • Conservation of angular momentum links the formation of planets in star-forming clouds to the beauty of a gymnast's spinning dismount from the uneven bars.
    Keep reading Show less

    3,000-pound Triceratops skull unearthed in South Dakota

    "You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.

    Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
    Surprising Science
    • The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
    • It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
    • Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
    Keep reading Show less

    Of spies and wars: the secret history of tea

    How the British obsession with tea triggered wars, led to bizarre espionage, and changed the world — many times.

    Credit: Content Pixie via Unsplash
    Culture & Religion
    • Today, tea is the single most popular drink worldwide, with a global market that outstrips all the nearest rivals combined.
    • The British Empire went to war over tea, ultimately losing its American colonies and twice beating the Chinese in the "Opium Wars."
    • The British desire to secure homegrown tea resulted in their sending botanist Robert Fortune on a Hollywood-worthy mission to secure Chinese tea plants and steal horticultural secrets.
    Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast