Print 35 comment(s) - last by number999.. on Oct 10 at 3:45 PM

Lithium-Ion batteries will still be the power source of choice for notebooks in the foreseeable future

There have been battery recalls announced in the past few months involving names such as Dell, Lenovo, Apple, Toshiba, Matsushita/Panasonic, and Fujitsu. The seemingly weekly recall announcements have had many industry watchers and consumers asking for alternatives to current battery technology. But for all the talk of exploding batteries and with recalled units now topping the 7 million, the industry will be sticking with lithium-ion batteries for the foreseeable future.

As shocking as the number of recalls may seem, there have still been fewer than 50 incidents involving the faulty batteries. Also, companies like Hewlett-Packard have yet to announce recalls for its Sony-manufactured batteries and has no plans to do so. The company is confident in the safety of its battery packs and lithium-ion batteries as a whole.

Quite frankly, there really is no credible alternative to lithium-ion technology at the moment. For all the talk of fuel cell technology, which Toshiba recently had on display, the infrastructure to make such technology viable for consumers is not yet in place. eWeek reports:

Moreover, although the recalls have sparked moves by some in the PC industry to increase the care with which lithium-ion cells are manufactured—one group is working to establish universal cell manufacturing standards, for example—there appear to be few lithium-ion alternatives on the horizon at the moment that don't involve trade-offs in energy density, cost or both. Some options, such as zinc-silver batteries, use entirely different chemistries, while others reformulate lithium-ion designs by introducing new materials. Numerous manufacturers are also designing fuel cells, which convert hydrogen into electricity. But none are without challenges, ensuring that in the absence of a dark horse replacement candidate, lithium-ion or some version of the chemistry is likely to power notebooks for years to come.

So while we may not see an alternative to lithium-ion technology take over in the near future, there are other ways to squeeze more run time out of notebooks. The Mobile PC Extended Battery Life (EBL) Working Group is collaborating to ensure that business notebooks will be able to operate for eight hours on a charge by the year 2008. The group is working to develop 72-watt hour batteries, 3-watt 14" and 15" XGA LCD panels and dramatically reduce power requirements in processor/chipset designs to achieve this goal.

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24-hr laptop
By mlittl3 on 10/9/2006 10:56:17 AM , Rating: 1
I can't wait for the day when we have 24-hr laptop batteries and the ability to recharge to 80% in minutes. The future is so dreamy. :)

RE: 24-hr laptop
By Davelo on 10/9/2006 11:32:51 AM , Rating: 3
More importantly is better batteries for the automotive industry. The planet needs to move away from gasoline engine vehicles to electric. This all hinges on better batteries.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By TomZ on 10/9/2006 11:49:51 AM , Rating: 4
Electric vehicles only move the problem - burning gasoline in the engine versus burning coal in the powerplant. While an electric vehicle can be more environmentally efficient than a traditional engine, they are far from "zero emissions" as many people believe.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By JeffDM on 10/9/2006 11:58:50 AM , Rating: 3
Actually, moving the problem in this case is actually helpful. Even a standard coal power plant is considerably more efficient than a gasoline engine on a per-unit-energy basis. It also reduces the number of emissions points that need to be attended to. In terms of cost to society, cleaning emissions from a few plants is a lot easier and cheaper than cleaning the emissions of tens of millions of cars.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By TomZ on 10/9/2006 12:04:35 PM , Rating: 1
Yes of course - this is what I said in my post - but the view people have of electric vehicles have zero emissions is wrong, unless you are willing to completely ignore where the energy came from in the first place.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By mindless1 on 10/9/2006 12:35:10 PM , Rating: 1
Unfortunately you cannot directly compare the efficiency of the two because in the case of the engine there's no (significant) loss of energy due to charging, battery self-discharge, the infrastructure to support it (current electric grids cannot support recharging all these cars), or even the impact of recycling (or lack of) of the spent battery packs. It maybe theorectically possible to make it more efficient still, but for years it was theoretically possible to make gasoline powered cars more efficient than they are too, and history has shown we didn't- it would not be a reasonable comparison to assume we'd do so with electric.

In terms of cost to society, it is a lot easier and cheaper to continue what we're curretly doing. However, that doesn't make it morally acceptible to pollute the environment at any higher rate than necessary.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By ninjit on 10/9/2006 1:04:46 PM , Rating: 1
Actually the current grid can support charging lots of electric vehicles, it depends mostly on usage models and peoples habits.

Some service areas have lower power rates at night becuase that's when the grid is used less (businesses/factories are closed, etc.) Ideally this is when people would plug in and charge their cars (overnight, like you would a cellphone) and wake-up to a full battery-pack in the morning. Sure we'd still need a high-power draw quick-charge system for a pinch, but an 8-hr overnight charge cycle wouldn't be very demanding on the grid at all.

On a related note, have you guys heard of the Tesla electric vehicle?

It's designed around a lotus elise platform (british compact sports car for those of you who aren't familiar with it), and they contracted out with lotus to build the things too.

When I first read about them I was drooling.

The thing they are tooting their horn about most is the massive lithium-ion battery pack they designed, with safety features out the wazoo - Sony might learn a thing or too from them.

Also with regards electric vehicles and the environment - in addition to what's already been mentioned above about consolidating emissions to the power plants, electric vehicles are much much simpler than ICEs, fewer parts to break, basically one thing to lubricate, no need for oil changes or fancy cooling systems, etc.
These are not only environmental benefits, but also make life a lot easier for the consumer and manufacturer in general - much larger service intervals with reduced maintenance costs, easier trouble-shooting when a problem does occur. With fewer things to worry about, a car company can afford the time and cost to use better components and offer bettery warranties.

Personally, it's the way I think cars should have been made in the first place - just imagine what the world would be like now if we had gone the electric route from the getgo instead of pushing oil-based technology - we would have had a lot more development in battery-pack technologies and fuel-cells (since they produce electricity too).

Oh well, hopefully when I'm old enough/rich enough to actually consider an electric vehicle, they will be more ubiqutous.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By ADDAvenger on 10/9/2006 2:45:23 PM , Rating: 2
Anything electric could be zero-emission if we'd just get over our paranoia about nukes. We haven't built a nuclear power plant in the States since the 70's, nor have we had an sizable screw-up since then. I have two points here: We're using 30 year-old technology yet it hasn't blown up, so wouldn't it be safe to assume that we'd also be safe with modern construction and such? and Two, the only nuclear breach was in Chernobyl, even at 3 Mile Island, our worst, there was no containment breach, but the core started overheating because of bad training and gauges. Since then we've overhauled all of our safety regs, surely we can move on?

RE: 24-hr laptop
By TomZ on 10/9/2006 3:11:48 PM , Rating: 2
I totally agree - for me the only concern is safe, long-term storage of nuclear waste, which I think has been pretty well dealt with. I think the safety of nuclear power plants is also a solved problem. Nuclear power could help lessen our dependence on foreign energy sources, plus be good for the environment. Seems like a win-win to me.

Seems ironic to me that tree-huggers put the kibosh on nuclear power, and thus kept us on this insane course of burning oil, natural gas, and coal in the US.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By Shining Arcanine on 10/9/2006 7:08:08 PM , Rating: 2
Wikipedia states that 96% of nuclear waste is perfectly good Uranium, so if we were to recycle our nuclear waste, we would only have to worry about 1/25 of the nuclear waste about which we currently worry, and the longevity of the radioactivity would be far lower as well:

I am a environmentalist, and the fanaticists that virtually monopolize the usage of the term environmentalist would be against this in an instant, because if we do not do everything that they want us to do for the environment (which involves mass genocide so we stop "hurting" and ensure that there is no one left to care), they do not want us to do anything for it. It is ridiculous, but it is true.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By Shining Arcanine on 10/9/2006 7:09:58 PM , Rating: 2
That comment in parenthesis about mass genocide was supposed to be:

(which involves mass genocide so we stop "hurting" the environment and ensure that there is no one left to care)

After I typed "hurting," I put parenthesis around it so I forgot to type "the environment" after it. I apologize for not catching that sooner.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By number999 on 10/10/2006 3:05:06 PM , Rating: 2
At present prices there is only about 25-30 years of uranium. Of course as prices go up the supply increases.

The majority of reactors in the world are light water reactors that have a tendency to absorb neutrons, that is the main reason for the enrichment process. Heavy water reactors like the CANDU can use regular Uranium as fuel as well as enriched fuel since heavy water doesn't absorb neutrons as much. The "waste" from a regular light water reactor can be ground up and used to fuel a heavy water reactor, at least for a little while. This is being done in South Korea.

The Uranium left is usually non-radioactive. It's the U turned to Plutonium that is the radioactive part as well as the other radioactive components like Strontium. The really dangerous stuff is the Plutonium which is highly poisonous and long lived. Other radioactive fuel cycles would be Thorium, which can be transmutated into radioactive Uranium, which is way more abundant than U-235.
Breeder reactors would be necessary but no country has really developed the technology extensively. The closest would the Phoenix and Super-Phoenix in France used to accelerate the break down of nuclear waste.

Gas cooled reactors provide an interesting technology because the most proposed coolant is He. When irradiated, the isotopes are short lived and the radiation is, I think, Beta radiation.

Should nuclear fuel be recycled? Yes but internationally, there is fear of nuclear proliferation with the material. Also no one wants nuclear material moving through where they live. Lastly the cost of recycling the material is prohibitive.

As for fanaticists calling themselves environmentalists. Well I like to think of myself too as an environmentalist and I'm no fanatic but look at the fore front of the movement. For years they have been banging their heads against the wall trying to get stuff to happen and nothing happened for years. They really don't have a lot of power but the power of their voices and in the majority of cases they really don't win. Society and corporations have worked around them. What's their reward? It's definitely not a lot of bucks.

Also, environmentalists are comprised of many different opinions. I believe the Sierra club and a couple of the original Greenpeace members support nuclear power. They too are pragmatic enough to realize that consumption is not going down and that we need to statisfy a large number of stakeholders if anything we do is to succeed.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By misuspita on 10/9/2006 7:19:14 PM , Rating: 2
In the case of nuclear fission powerplants, yes, there's problems storing the waste material. But if the new type of nuclear fusion power plants does well (currently testing in France, multi-billion, multi-national program) then there would be less problems with nuclear waste (in case of ission, the uranium stayes active for a few hundred thousand years, while the fusion by-products only for 12 years). Hence a plus for going all-electric

RE: 24-hr laptop
By Shining Arcanine on 10/10/2006 7:30:08 AM , Rating: 2
They still do not have the technology to build a nuclear fusion power plant. All successful nuclear fusion reactions done in laboratories to date are unfeasible to do on a large scale. France is trying to develop nuclear fusion reactors, so it is investing heavily in the research that would make their development possible, but it is not yet possible to build one and nuclear fusion is not yet well enough known to say how you would build one definitively.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By number999 on 10/10/2006 2:30:17 PM , Rating: 2
The ITER being built is supposed to be a break even energy plant. Even if it works, a working fusion reator is way off.

It is an international effort. It was suppose to be built in Southern Ontario, Canada due to production of deuterium and tritium but the Ontario gov't pulled out due to economic fears. Too bad but what can you do.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By number999 on 10/10/2006 3:45:10 PM , Rating: 2
tree-huggers put the kibosh on nuclear power

Hey, I don't think that's fair. The way we regulate the industry and how it developed put it in trouble.

You can't actual start paying off the costs of a nuclear power plant until it's completed. For a multi-billion dollar plant that takes years - well that's a lot of interest. The lead times have increased hugely, increasing the costs.

Many of the early plants were derived from military projects. Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace pushed nuclear reactors into the public probably way too soon with way too many design flaws. It was Admiral Rickover who oversaw the developement of navel reactors, who then oversaw Shippingport. Many reactors were created out of nationalism rather than economics or out of a sense of modernism for the utilities.

Presently, there are reactor designs today that have addressed a lot of the problems of the old reactors but those old reactors have 50-60 years of operational life. We inherited the problems that they have and they have seeped into the national idea of what nuclear power is all about and not just to the tree huggers but to almost everyone.

As for the insane course of burning fossil fuels, there's no one to blame but ourselves. The President of France said it simply "we have no oil, no gas, we have no choice" and went on a nuclear power plant expansion. The US on the other hand gave tax breaks for oil and gas developement, let cars have worse milage today than in the 70's and basically stuck it's collective head in the sand in the name of consumerism and keeping the status quo.

Ironically, it's more likely the tree huggers that are most likely to be the first takers of any new more efficient technology, usually paying a premium for it.

And lastly, I'm realizing that all of this has absolutely nothing to do with 24 hr laptops, so I'm outta here.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By Shining Arcanine on 10/9/2006 6:59:23 PM , Rating: 2
Regardless, electric vehicles are better than gasoline burning vehicles. Coal power plants are more efficient than gasoline burning vehicles, and thus, even if all of the electric vehicles in the world were to run off electricity from coal, they would still be more efficient.

Of course, there are two problems with coal. The first is that the coal is not burned efficiently, as current coal burning power plants, which the US uses have 40% efficiency, while molten carbon fuel cell power plants have upwards of 80% efficiency. This is because energy legislation omits coal power plants from emissions requirements; if that were to change, this would change. The seonc is that coal is rich in radioactive material, thus any form of energy extraction that involves carbon dioxide production is inhereitly inefficient when you consider the much larger amount of energy that you can extract from coal through nuclear fission. A nuclear fission power plant and uranium extraction facility could get far greater amounts of energy out of coal than any coal power plant ever could, without the CO2 emissions and with negligible radiation emissions, especially when compared to the cancer causing levels that are released into the atmosphere from coal power plants today. We have released more radioactive material into the environment through the burning of coal than detonating every nuclear bomb in the world ever could release, and you can include the bombs from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Cold War nuclear weapons tests and the WWII nuclear weapons tests without modifying the fact that we have placed more uranium, thorium and other radioactive elemtns into the atmosphere through burning coal than nuclear war ever could.

We are moving towards a coal free world. It will take another president like Ronald Reagan or Theodore Roosevelt before we see that happen though, especially with the Democrat's recent popularity. If the Democrats were to try this, they would make things even worse.

RE: 24-hr laptop
By MarkHark on 10/9/2006 8:32:09 PM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure there are some working prototypes already, it's called fuel cells.
Only you won't recharge it at a wall outlet, instead you'll carry all the power you want in a bottle on your backpack.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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