Tag Archives: battery technology

If I can’t have my flying car, can I please have my flying battery?

MIT Technology review has a fascinating writeup on efforts to build electric planes. In my view, these efforts are at the same time shooting too low (the result would be the equivalent of flying short buses, at most) and possibly doable (which is good).

Have you ever noticed how much electricity weighs? Here is an experiment you can do. Get two identical alkaline batteries (small ones, like AA size), one totally discharged and the other fully charged.

Now, hold one in each hand and see if you can tell which one is heavier. Is the charged up one heavier?

No, of course not. Electricity stored as potential energy in a battery actually weighs nothing. This is an interesting idea. Airplane fuel does weigh something, but electricity itself does not. If only we could create a battery that weights almost nothing to carry all that weight-free electricity!

OK, now, while you are still holding the batteries, try something else. Do this quickly, because you don’t want anyone asking you “why are you holding these batteries” right now, because you’d have to say, “I’m trying to see how much electricity weighs,” and that is kind of a stupid question.

Hold the batteries over a hard surface that you don’t mind dropping a battery on. Maybe ten inches to a foot above the surface. Hold them upright. Now, drop them on the surface and see how they act.

The “full” battery, the one with the charge, will normally bounce better than the “empty” one.

This proves that something interesting is going on inside the battery. What? I don’t know, but I suspect it is at least tangentially related to the science behind the aforementioned MIT Technology Review write up: Top battery scientists have a plan to electrify flight and slash airline emissions. Go read it, it is very interesting.

After reading this, I had this thought: Have a relatively small battery i an aircraft that does not use the same exact technology as the long distance battery, and is good at ONLY rapid output of a lot of power, and is replaced and recycled after every flight. Ideally, the plane would actually drop the battery once it is done using it. Neighbors of airports may object.

A big step in battery technology?

I usually avoid writing about research that has not been done yet. I get press releases every day about grants awarded to universities and private companies to pursue one research project or another. There is always some reason those grants are awarded, some prior research that indicates a potential finding. The early indications of what could happen in combination with the verification of wonderfulness of the research team demonstrated by six or seven figures of dollars being provided to develop the work results in a press release with promise. The thing is, the potential results often don’t turn out, or turn out very differently than expected. The end product may be very worthwhile in the end, of course. However, disseminating information about research projects at the early stages mostly serves to spread misinformation because a potential finding will be mistaken for a result, and the result that never happened (or has not happened yet) gets out there even though it is not real.

But, I just heard about a project I want to mention, not because it is more likely than other projects to succeed, but just because I think the idea is interesting, and it relates to a larger anthropological problem in the advancement of green technology. Continue reading A big step in battery technology?