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10-Year Archive

Humanizing Tech

Understanding Battery Technology

Thesis: Personal Power Station towards Energy 3.0

I. Setting the Stage

As we move into the future of technology, there is one thing that we will never be able to escape. The energy required to power something. We humans get that energy from food. The food gets their energy from sunlight.

We also have managed to harness other forms of power, from coal to oil to wind and water. In essence, we’re doing nothing but harnessing the natural forces found in nature to transform them into some type of power to run things.

But there is another aspect of energy that we tend to take for granted. It’s not just that we have access to energy, but also that we can store it so we can use it on demand instead of in real-time.

Nature stores energy in things like coal, oil, wood, and water. We add energy to it (i.e., burn it) to release its pent up energy in hopes that the energy we expend to release it is less than we get out the other side. In other words, a positive energy return.

II. Understanding How Batteries Work

In today’s world, however, our cell phones, computers, and TVs aren’t burning things in order for them to work. Rather, we creative humans have found a way to store this energy efficiently in little bricks. We call them Lithium-ion batteries.

It’s how Duracell’s copper top and Energizer’s bunny works. It’s also how your smart devices work. You plug them into the wall, it refills the battery’s energy. It’s what Tesla uses as the energy storage center in its electric vehicles.

Have a look at the video below, which walks you through the basics of battery technology.

III. Personal Power Stations

The next step then, is how we utilize these technologies to grab and store energy from things we’re already doing. We are very inefficient with our energy, and it costs money. When you run your air conditioning in your house during the summer, it’s likely your bill can be between $100 and $500 per month. That’s a car payment, folks. And not a small amount of money. Just to keep us comfortable.

But what if we found a way to offset that cost ourselves. Of course Tesla’s purchase of Solar City plans to install beautiful looking solar panel roof tiles on your house, then pull that sunlight energy down and store it in a Powerwall in your garage. You can then use that energy to charge your car and power everything in your home.

What if there was a less industrial solution to all this? Why do you have to spend a bunch of money on roof panels, a big metal box, installation, repair, and a high-end car?

Maybe you don’t have to, if there’s an enterprising young entrepreneur out there brash enough to make it happen.

What you need is the ability to capture wasted energy. There was a young lady who was attempting to build sidewalks that, when you stepped on them, captured some of your foot’s force as it pressed down and stored it as electrical energy.

Imagine doing the same thing when you go to the gym. The weights that you’re lifting, machines you’re pushing, pulling, running, and peddaling on are all capturing the output of that force. The clothes that we wear are capturing the static electricity, or what we call Energy 3.0.

IV. Investing in Cobalt

If you take the batteries from your cell phone apart, and break them down into its constituent components, one of the most critical materials is Cobalt. More specifically, Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LiCoO2). It’s really great for high capacity batteries in laptops, cell phones, and cameras.

And if you know anything about the future of video as sensors, not just for entertainment (Thesis: video is the app) and we move to an even greater wearable society, we are going to be running more low-power items that require nearly constant charging. From AirPods as superhuman hearing to AR glasses for superhuman sight become more mainstream, these small technologies that begin to capture our static electricity and energy from movement will be the ones that consumers choose.

For one very lazy reason. We don’t like to have to charge things and we lose cables.

As you study The Base Code of your own (Thesis: Personal Hedge Fund), Cobalt might be a commodity you consider placing some of your own bets on. Below is a graph showing how its price per ton varied over the last 11 years.

But be careful, there are a number of forces at play with this commodity.

V. Capturing Energy From Tapping on Phones

Our good friends the Millennials may be their own power source of the future. And you just thought they were rotting their brains Snapchatting each other every moment, and spending their lives typing rather than talking.

In fact, what they were actually doing is generating electricity so they can live a more independent life and pay for that Uber ride to the mall just by using their phone and selling that captured power back to the grid.

A Michigan State University student did just that.

It’s not on until you touch it. It’s the ultimate AWS service. It scales up only when you need it. Energy, completely on demand. Apple has a name for it. Force Touch.

And of course, what analysis of the future wouldn’t be complete without a mention of our favorite space age material, Graphene. In this installment, Graphene Oxide, or GO for short, is a revolutionary Lithium-ion battery technology that can also be used for hydrogen storage or as a supercapacitor.

Our friends at the Nano Energy Journal turned us onto this one.

Graphene oxide: A promising nanomaterial for energy and environmental applications

So, who wants to raise their hand and get to building? If you’re going after it, give me a shout. Until next time, happy hunting.


Read More

What Is A Personal Power Station?

Understanding Battery Technology was originally published in Humanizing Tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from Stories by Sean Everett on Medium http://ift.tt/2hQqvZR