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Power The Military Technology

Batteries Smaller Than a Grain of Salt 68

An anonymous reader writes "Lithium-ion batteries have become ubiquitous in today's consumer electronics — powering our laptops, phones, and iPods. Research funded by DARPA is pushing the limits of this technology and trying to create some of the tiniest batteries on Earth, the largest of which would be no bigger than a grain of sand. These tiny energy storage devices could one day be used to power the electronics and mechanical components of tiny micro- to nano-scale devices."
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Batteries Smaller Than a Grain of Salt

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  • by Reilaos ( 1544173 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @03:34PM (#33965036) Homepage

    As exciting as this is, I would take this news... ... with a grain of salt.

  • Take TFA... (Score:1, Redundant)

    ...with a grain of salt.

    There, I said it.
  • non removable? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @03:37PM (#33965116)

    Apple would still make it un-replaceable ;)

    Seriously though, would it not be even more interesting if something useful existed that could make use of these batteries?

  • Why not create a battery that is composed of lots of these tiny batteries that could make a smartphone run for weeks???
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Would that not just be a regular battery?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Dakman ( 824764 )
        The batteries in TFA are more dense, and have a higher capacity for storage in smaller amounts.
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @03:38PM (#33965134) Journal

    The title says smaller than a grain of salt but the article says smaller than a grain of sand.

    And what kind of salt are you talking about? Table salt, sea salt, pickling salt? Same goes for sand. Waikiki sand, Provincetown sand, Bali sand?

    What would be nice is if there were some system of measurement that could be easily understood by the masses when talking about such sizes. For example, how many fractions of a Library of Congress would that be? Or maybe elephants. Elephants are always good. I once listened to a story on NPR about how much water is in the average cloud. The scientist (hydrologist?) involved used elephants to let the listener know how many elephants worth of water was being suspended above our heads when clouds are about.

    Personally I prefer metric buttloads. Use that term and everyone knows what you're talking about.

    • What do you mean, African or European buttloads?

      How many kilobuttloads in a decihogshead?

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A /metric/ buttload is well defined and not dependent on geography. It's the load distributable on the average butt. We can measure this easily in spanks. It's my observation that 3 spanks equals one buttload.

      • ... no, wait, never mind. I thought you said dickhead, in which case it would be the other way around.



      • What do you mean, African or European buttloads?

        Both of them use the metric system, as far as I'm aware. The US still uses the imperial system, which is why our butt-loads, ass-tons, and shit-loads are all somewhat larger.

        I'm not sure whether that's the cause of, or the result of us being so full of shit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Klinky ( 636952 )

      The proper measurement is actually metric asstons...

    • Re:Sand or salt? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by The_mad_linguist ( 1019680 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @05:18PM (#33966616)

      Except people in the US, since nobody can remember the conversion factor between Metric Buttloads (mB) and Imperial Fucktons.

    • by KORfan ( 524397 )
      Sand particles are sized between .0625 mm and 2 mm.
  • This could give a new definition to the term 'bugged.'

    Just imagine the fun you could have with a remotely operated or autonomous flying reconnaissance/surveillance vehicle the size of an insect!
  • Just don't tell this to Sony.

    Who knows how many micro explosions would we have to endure every day.

  • to make a zillion-volt battery that lasts a fraction of a second.

    • Can I hire you for User Interface design? You seem to have the type of thinking I'm looking for.

  • I'm already going blind trying to solder components smaller than 0402 [].

  • by iONiUM ( 530420 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @03:56PM (#33965372) Journal

    I don't know about everyone else, but I've had no less than 4 devices in the last year have faulty Li-Ion batteries (they didn't hold a charge, or ran out much faster than they should have). Each time I had to exchange the device for a new one, at which point it worked as expected.

    Is this really how batteries are now? It's pathetic.

    • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @04:04PM (#33965500) Journal

      A couple of months ago, my ThinkPad reported my battery as "unusable" after a year of service. Odd thing was, the battery didn't slowly lose service life. I was getting 3 hours at first, and it was down to about 2 hours 30 minutes, then one day I plugged it in to recharge and the ThinkPad flat out refused to charge the battery. It was under warranty, so Lenovo issued my company a new one free of charge and even overnighted it, but...

      I'm wondering if this is a sign that manufacturers are finally taking the scary explosive dangerousness that is highly unstable Li-Ion seriously, and programming their chargers to be overcautious about any and all perceived faults in the battery?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'd be more interested in knowing why every time the energy density of batteries increase, my consumer grade hardware simply gets thinner with a smaller battery to compensate and make sure my autonomy remains horribly short despite the technology being available to drastically improve things?
      I mean, I know that packing too much energy density around is dangerous but the cell configurations of the larger laptops could easily fit into a smaller one and provide the uncorded hours that those rated numbers boast

  • ...tiniest batteries on Earth, the largest of which would be no bigger than a grain of sand

    Call the Guiness people--these might be the biggest smallest batteries out there!

    - RG>

  • These tiny energy storage devices could one day be used to power the electronics and mechanical components of tiny micro- to nano-scale devices

    I can just imagine trying to change THOSE.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Dakman ( 824764 )
      The connector is larger than the battery! Actually, considering the small size of these, let's pair it up with some wireless power action. Then we'd be in business.
  • could you pass me the salt?

  • Ok... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by i_b_don ( 1049110 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @04:16PM (#33965722)

    They've got this already... they're called capacitors. Ok, they're not smaller than a grain of salt, but an 0201 package is really fricken small.

    Do you really need the greater power density you get from a chemical reaction rather than a capacitor at those sizes? A capacitor is so much easier to fabricate and charge that I can't imagine why you would go for a battery. I mean, in order to charge a battery, you'd need a chip that is MUCH larger than a grain of salt... although even for a cap you'd want a voltage regulator of some sort.

    Maybe I'm missing something here. What is this for? Nano-machines? Nano listening devices? Nano-trackers? Now that seems like the really interesting question....


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Maybe I'm missing something here. What is this for? Nano-machines? Nano listening devices? Nano-trackers? Now that seems like the really interesting question....

      That's the thing. These are the proverbial horse that's going to pull the cart. We're not sure what these are going to power, but the power source has to be available before those things can be developed. Sure you can design devices without a known power source, but you can't hook a prototype nano-medical bot up to a 12V with jumper cables for proof of concept purposes.

  • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @04:24PM (#33965848) Journal

    Slashdot could have gotten more readers with this headline:


  • But I don't get much of a charge out of it....

  • Using atomic layer deposition -- a slow but precise process that allows layers of material only an atom thick to be sprayed on a surface -- she has successfully applied the solid electrolyte lithium aluminosilicate to these nanomaterials.

    Using ALD (a relatively costly and slow throughput technique)

    The research is still in its early stages: other components of these 3D microbatteries, such as the electrodes, have also been developed, but they have yet to be assembled and integrated to make a functioning battery.

    The first stages of this research have begun

  • So what! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Herkum01 ( 592704 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @05:53PM (#33966978)

    It is already a pain to change AAA batteries, imagine what it is going to be like trying to change one of these things. Good forbid you drop the thing, or put it in the wrong way. Think, how many sides does a grain of salt have! That is going to the number of ways that someone is going to install it wrong!

    Also, lets say you want to test it to see if it still has a charge. You put it on your tongue and it dissolves! Now your are stuck shelling out another 5 bucks to Energizer!

  • Power density (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ermintru ( 797621 ) on Wednesday October 20, 2010 @09:06PM (#33968876)
    So we current have current laptop batteries that store X power in Y space and when then go wrong they over heat or even burst into flames so the new batteries that store the X power in "grain of rice" space then the power density stored must be a minimum of a 1000 times higher what happens when one of those goes wrong?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)


      "We're trying to achieve the same power densities, the same energy densities as traditional lithium ion batteries, but we need to make the footprint much smaller," says Chang.

      If these batteries are using a chemical process, they're limited to chemical energy densities, which can't get a whole lot higher than what we see today.

      A white-hot iron rod will make your clothing burst into flames at a touch. A white-hot spark from your Dremel tool grinding that same rod will bounce right off your clothes, or

  • Well if you put a thousand of these together I'd hope they could power a car or make my laptop battery last longer :P

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