I couldn't help wondering about some of the details:
It is described as a Lithium-Sulfur battery, then later we're told that the design "replaces lithium with abundant and low-cost elemental sulfur..."
It is not clear to me which it is.
Also, we're told that the design "offers four times the energy density of conventional lithium-ion technologies.", and yet the numbers given near the end tell us that the energy density is about 7 - 8.5 times the regular Li+ battery.
That's an interesting perspective and example, Watashi. So sometimes research itself needs commercial backing, not the other way around. And the government can sometimes get in its own way with getting good ideas out there.
The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has flown for many years. It can be an example for you, but not as you suggest.
Both Boeing and Lockheed had flying prototypes back in 2000. Lockheed won the competition, then the government did what it does best; requirements creep. Had the government put out final requirements to start with and prevented any changes; the JSF would be in service today.
IN my opinion, government suffers from three fundamental issues as it relates to this thread:
1) Government Bureaucracy is expensive and creates such an overhead that only a miniscule amount of funding actually goes toward any project.
2) Politics trumps all; no one ever wants to make a final decision and nothing is ever guaranteed. Your research focus today can be cut by political whim (especially with the rash of crony capitalism going on right now).
3) Government incompetence; which is usually caused by simple oversights processing through an utterly mindless bureaucracy. I'd even go as far as to say that if these researchers were the cream of the crop, they would be working in the private sector.
Some have suggested that it would be great if the government did the basic research and then let us profit exploiting it, but that is not how things work in the real world. The government research, while technically owned by all of us, will have rights or release of information steered to those who will pay to play. It also undercuts the private research initiatives. Knowing that the government is throwing its resources into an area, jeopardizing the profit potential, can depress private research efforts; because businesses must profit or die.
That's a really interesting perspective, William. It seems that the luxury of research outside of a company allows people to have a lot of ideas and see what could actually be commercially viable, while inside a company people have to be pretty sure this "great idea" is going to work.
3drob, "most, if not all, the low hanging fruit has been discovered." I could not disagree more. Some inovation will all of a sudden make something else, "low hanging fruit".
I am a fisherman and in 2012 a lure appeared that impacted the sport like no other in my memory. Isaac Walton wrote his treatise on angling a couple centries ago, and much of it is still valid and practiced. But when Tom Mann came out with his "Alabama Rig" it caused changes in the law. The A-Rig fishes (5) baits at once and several states, that I am aware of, changed fishing laws to outlaw or at least limit it. When you see the rig in action, it is such a simple concept that I am sure many people could have thought of it, but only one was first bring it to the market. As such Mann was able to command a $25 price tag. Since then a number of imitations have hit the market and prices have tumbled to under $10.
Now you may argue that fishing lures have been around for centuries and this is only an alteration. I would counter that this is such a different concept as to be a new invention. Not to mention a lot of fun to fish. I am sure there are other niche markets where similar things have occured.
Elizabeth, one way to have some great ideas is to have a large number of ideas, some of which become great, while the rest may not be very good. Sort of like Edison, who came up with lots of ideas, some of which wound up being great, and quite a few that we never read about.
Of course, not every organization understands the conditions required to fertilize the area for ideas of any kind, great, good, or just possible. You may be able to ask companies like 3M about the proportion of ideas that they come up with as compared to those that make it into production. That could be an interesting topic for discussion.
Most of my employers over the years have primarily required the creation of great ideas in response to very specific requirements or problems, so it has been quite interesting, evaluating all the initial concepts devised, prior to putting lines on paper and verbally passing concepts around in our small group.
Yes, William K., let's hope this research gets on the right path so it is more than a teaser. If 15 years of being a journalist, mainly in tech, has taught me anything, it's that the path from a great idea to an actual useful and well-adopted product can be painfully slow, or never materialize at all. But with all of the efforts being put into battery research, something has to pan out eventually, I think.
Agreed, ervin0072002...the thing is, there are many efforts underway right now to create better batteries and find more innovative and efficient ways to store energy. It's about time, I say. I have always wondered why it's taken so long to improve batteries, why charging and battery life still plague us as every day irritations. I've learned that the chemistry is very tricky, though, as I've been writing about it, so it's not as easy as one think it might be.
This is one of those interesting things that tease us frequently, which is that some wonderful thing is discovered, and now all that needs to happen is for it to go into production next week, and "the world will be saved." Then the project just sort of fades away, or sometimes it gets federal funding and then goes broke. In this case it seems that there are definitly a few major breakthroughs needed to acieve commercial status.
But it sound valuable enough to make it worthwhile working on and I wish them success.
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