Batteries Can’t Keep Up with Technology

BatteriesWhile computer chips are known for doubling in capacity every two years or so, battery improvement is at a measly 10% a year. And experts in the field seem to have even more bad news: (a) things are unlikely to change, and (b) the situation may get worse before it gets better. Since computer chips are shrinking so rapidly, the consumer electronics industry is able to include more bells and whistles as part of your gadget. But those extra features tend to drain batteries faster than ever before.

Muzib Khan, one of Samsung’s vice presidents over mobile phones, explained how “with even 20% more efficiency, you could make the phone slimmer or the display bigger and brighter… It opens up more opportunities.” The issue revolves around the fact that basic battery design hasn’t changed for years. The concept is simple: one part of the battery gives up electrons for energy, another accepts them, and the third part separates the other two parts. The race is on for researchers to find new materials that could supply the most energy with the least amount of weight and space. Lithium-ion batteries, used in most consumer electronics for the past 10 years, is the best option so far.

As a result of such poor progress in the world of batteries, the consumer electronic industry treats the battery as the bottleneck when designing new gadgets. As an example, Apple’s iPhone engineers spent significant time tweaking software implementation to try and boost talk time. Greg Joswiak, an Apple vice president in marketing, said that “design decisions were made with the battery in mind.”

Here’s hoping the $75 million venture capitalists threw at battery development last year will pay off soon.

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