From the phones in our pockets to the cars on our roads, almost everything with an electrical circuit needs a battery. But while the rest of the technology industry has made great leaps over the past couple of decades, batteries have not. The shortcomings of batteries are now one of the biggest bottlenecks in transport, energy, infrastructure and more. Our power demands are ever-increasing, but our ability to carry or store power is limited. Smartphones barely last a day, electric vehicles have much shorter ranges than petrol or diesel cars, and storing energy from sources such as solar panels is difficult. A breakthrough in energy storage is sorely needed, and many companies, including some of the oil giants, are working on it. There’s a potentially lucrative market for those that succeed, but the limitations imposed by the chemistry of batteries have proved difficult to overcome. The biggest problem is energy density – how much energy can be stored in a given size and weight. Lithium-ion batteries, first introduced in 1991 and used in phones, cars and other rechargeable devices, store between 150 and 250 watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg). To put that in perspective, a fridge uses around 1,600 Wh a day, and petrol stores about of 13,000 Wh/kg – or more than 50 times the energy of even the best lithium-ion batteries.
Guardian 21st May 2016 read more »