Donald Sadoway on the Battery of the Future

I’m no tech guy, but Bill Gates on the Twitter recommended this talk by an MIT Professor with a “thrilling” “game-changing” new battery, so I figured it might be worth your attention.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • The Vicar

    Yes, and in 2004 or so, Bill Gates gave a speech in which he said spam e-mail would shortly be a solved problem. Are you receiving zero spam yet?

    It’s more than time to admit that Gates’ genius lies mainly in evading intellectual property law and corporate regulation than in, you know, actual genius.

  • jamessweet

    Yes, and in 2004 or so, Bill Gates gave a speech in which he said spam e-mail would shortly be a solved problem. Are you receiving zero spam yet?

    Actually, yes, or very close to it. Now, I’m sure Google is filtering far more spam for me than they are directing legitimate messages to my inbox. But I get a spam in the inbox maybe once or twice every few months.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Maybe 9 or 10 of the hundreds of spam comments the blog gets everyday actually get past the spam filters. In my e-mail I get a spam e-mail once every other week at the most–and it’s usually because someone I know has had their e-mail account coopted.

    • The Vicar

      Actually, yes, or very close to it. Now, I’m sure Google is filtering far more spam for me than they are directing legitimate messages to my inbox. But I get a spam in the inbox maybe once or twice every few months.

      This is akin to saying “most criminals go to jail, so crime is a solved problem” while ignoring the fact that half of the population is in prison. As of 2008, which was the last year for which I have seen statistics, the overwhelming majority of e-mail being transmitted between servers is still spam. That certainly isn’t what Bill Gates meant as a “solved problem”, and I certainly wouldn’t consider it one, either.

      Quite aside from the fact that you are relying on one of the most invasive and dishonest of large corporations to have active access to the content your e-mail before you do. On any list of corporations which have demonstrated trustworthiness, Google — and Facebook — are conspicuous for their absence.

  • http://songe.me Alex Songe

    This is cool but disclosure: Bill Gates is an investor in the company. That said, this still sounds promising on the merits.

    • http://songe.me Alex Songe

      Also, one of the things that I’ve found in my own field of internet applications is that for many projects, questioning the benefits of the standard operating procedure is often good, as you know where you can make sacrifices for speed and cost. There are many operational tradeoffs, and it’s never obvious which ones are good tradeoffs or not.

  • Francisco Bacopa

    Antimony isn’t really that common, so I’ve just invested in an antimony mining company.

    Also, while the tech is great for reducing emissions by compensating for the weaknesses of solar and wind power, I can see some pretty big environmental risks here. Hate to see one of these things crack in an earthquake. And is there not a risk of fire? if these things get hot enough to keep themselves melted, there’s a serious fire risk.

    And I noticed that the shot glass, hockey puck, saucer, and pizza were all the same height, so power seems to be proportional to area of interaction, rather than total amount of stuff. While this does reduce problems of heat dissipation as you scale up, it does not completely remove such problems. So, let’s say the “saucer” can keep itself hot enough, seems like the “shot glass” would not and the shipping container would boil metal.

    Interesting tech. I’m going to have to read up on it.

    • Titus Vader

      I don’t think there would be a problem with the metals boiling, as antimony and magnesium both boil at over 1000 degrees C while melt at 650 or so. Just aim for 700-800 and if necessary design the container to act as a heatsink to bleed off extra heat.

  • shoeguy

    Can’t see the graphics on iPad. Flash?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Here’s the YouTube video:

      Better?

  • http://replacinggod.blogspot.com/ Fil Salustri

    From a certain point of view, everything is a battery – even petroleum, which stores energy via it higher chemical potential energy.

    These new LM batteries could indeed help by flattening out the peaks in power availability which do not align with peaks in consumption.

    I’ll want a more detailed life-cycle analysis of these things, though, before I get off the fence.

    Even them, they won’t solve the problem so much as change it. By making energy more dependably available, they’ll lower the risk in using energy, which will likely just lead to even more energy use overall. And I remain unconvinced that we should be using even more energy than we already are.

  • Martin

    Very interesting. The following questions seem natural:

    1) What is the container made of?
    Concerns are:
    Reactivity with molten Mg, Sb and NaCl?
    Softening/melting w.r.t. operating temperature range of contents.
    2) Battery life?
    3) Pick up electrode materials?
    Again, concern with reactivity (liquid sulfur/sodium batteries tend to corrode their electrodes).

  • John Horstman

    @7: #1. I’m sure some type of ceramic container could be non-conductive and non-reactive at sufficient temperatures (around 1000 K) – something similar to standard ceramic crucibles any chemistry lab has).
    #2. He stated at the start that long life was a necessary design goal, though he didn’t address it in the talk. That said, the molten state allowing the metal nuclei to move freely and alloy should help with battery life vs. a conventional dry-cell battery .
    #3. Antimony and magnesium actually have relatively low melting points (both a bit over 900 K) – one could easily use something like copper (melting point ~1358 K) for the contacts to the molten Sb/Mg (assuming the Cu wouldn’t prove a more attractive electron donor/acceptor than the Mg/Sb – electrochemistry isn’t my specialty).


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X