One clearly gets a sense, from all the stories recently on batteries, that portable power sources have become a gating factor for many of the things we'd otherwise be able to do easily. I'm not just talking about electric vehicles, where batteries are clearly THE gating factor. This applies to all manner of miniaturized electronics, as well as systems situated in hard to get at places (where it's difficult to recharge). Rising alongside all the work on batteries, we're seeing a ramp in energy capture technologies. I guess it's all part of the alternative energy arena. Hey, can I call it alt.eng?
Batteries are definitely the talk of the town given people's love affair with all-things electronics. Put this one in the out-there bucket: I just read about a Stanford University research team which invented a totally transparent lithium-ion battery because they want Apple to invent a see-through iPhone. Who knew?
As an electrical engineer (retired) and a casual flier of electric model airplanes, I have closely watched the development of Lithium Ion battery sources for models over the last 10 to 15 years. Lithium Ion batteries have finally made the dream of electric powered model airplane flight possible and, today, many of those in the hobby have switched over totally (I know that I have - no more glow fuel for me!).
Of course, there were some problems and the fire issue was (and still is) a very serious concern. The risk has been mitigated to some extent with better chargers, improved battery construction, smarter control devices between the battery and the motor(s), the use of different battery materials and a strong education campaign by the model industry.
There is still a ways to go and providing 'smart' batteries with more integrated control and safety circuits might be the way to proceed for the model industry. The downside is, of course, the cost increase for the battery pack and a question of standarization.
Overall an interesting marketing and engineering problem in a rapidly evolving field.
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