Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Economist: The Power of The Press

The Economist is not my usual choice of magazine. Although I took an IGCSE in Economics and got an A* I did not feel it was the right path for me. However that did not stop me from picking it up and judging it by its front cover. And I found something that was quite astounding. A section entirely dedicated to the analysis of the inventions made in economics with special relations to science and technology. Of course it got be interested and I decided to give one of the articles a chance.

Rechargeable batteries made out of paper. Or something rather close to paper. Probably any type of plastic or metal would do the trick. Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Looks like the scientists in the Planar Energy of Orlando, Florida thought it could be a reality. Thin-film printing that uses liquid precursor chemicals to act as the normal liquid electrolyte used in lithium batteries. This trick has already been employed in solar cells but nobody could quite manage to transfer this capability to lithium batteries. Lithium has been the most popular to date due to its lightness and for its effective storage of energy per kilogram.

Vacuum deposition
An earlier process of achieving a solid electrolyte was vacuum deposition. I decided to investigate this process in more detail. In a nutshell it involves creating a layer of material less than one micrometer thick by laying atoms one by one. In this way a solid electrolyte can be created although it is quite expensive to do so. The Planar thin film however works as a sort of gel similar to the process of classical press printing. The cathode employed is lithium manganese dioxide while the anode is doped tin oxides and lithium alloys. The most important component of this process is the thio-LISICONS (lithium superionic conductors) which when observed to the nanoscale are actually not a solid at all.

Of course the theory does not end here but in reality some of it was quite complicated for my taste so I will just leave. However I make a vow that one day I will research this topic once again and discover its true nature. All in all, I hope that this idea will somehow pan out in the future although there are many errors that need to be worked out before it will become a reality.


Maciek said...

Very interesting !