Why in this world of modern technology wonders are we still dependent on batteries? Just now I was taking a picture of my new kitten doing something particularly funny and cute when my camera said "battery exhausted". (I need to read the manual to learn how to recharge it). The other night I was driving home down a winding mountain road when my pump which was in my bra at the time beeped at me. Fortunately it was a dark mountain road so I could pull over and just take it out to look. It was telling me my battery needed replacing.

I mean really, it seems kind of low tech to me! I've read a lot of science fiction over the years which predicted many of the wonders we actually use today; nobody ever had to stop to change batteries!

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Compared to other areas of technological progress, our progress on batteries has been dismal. Here is an article looking at the progress in things like computational power density, display density and batteries. Batteries have made little relative progress.

Very interesting article, Brian, thanks. (at least the parts I could understand!) It is interesting how some aspects of our culture remain at a lower tech level while others zoom by at exponential rates.

battery exhausted-i love personification!

LOL...didn't even catch that one. But I already have way too much compassion for inanimate objects, don't need to feel I'm driving my batteries too hard! The camera battery is now enjoying a two hour nap in the charger...wonder where I put my human recharger?

Yes, it's a big problem...so far there has been no magic invention to improve energy storage. Battery progress has been very slow, as Brian points out.

There are some other technologies - for example, there is Apple filed a patent on a fuel-cell powered laptop. It might run for days at a time, but then you would refuel it with liquid or gaseous fuel, much like an old-fashioned lighter. That has its own set of problems.

Slow progress in battery technology is also impeding the progress of electric cars.

I think in the end the machines will use carbon based critters like us for the batteries...Medtronic built nuclear pacemakers that would run longer than the recipient so when the person expired the undertaker had to ship the pacemaker back to Las Alamos to recover the nuclear stuff which was technically just on loan. I'm sure we are not ready
for that kind of power.

First of all, hi, new kitty! :D

The problem, in part, is that the problem of energy storage is a really tricky one. It's a problem, and it's something that the industry is trying to get their butts off the ground and work on (mainly because of wind turbines and trying to store the energy from those since they are intermittent and that does not interface well with the electrical grid).

All the energy has to be stored as potential energy, and there's the option of mechanical, chemical, and electrical storage. With mechanical, you could have a wound up spring that slowly unwinds or bladder full of gas that slowly releases the gas (and many other possibilities that I can't think of right now). With chemical, you can have chemical reactions that take place over a period of time (like in a battery) or have a fuel, like in a car. With electrical...it's a bit harder. Electromagnetic waves kinda do whatever they want to do, so it's easier to store that energy as chemical or mechanical potential energy and then convert it in to electrical.

Take light for example. We can't (easily) tell the light where to go or where to stop, and we can't store light itself, but that light can be transform into a different form of energy with plants and solar panels and the like. It's an energy conversion game, and right now, batteries are the best we've come up with, unfortunately.

(And hopefully that all made sense).

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