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Google mulls creation of next-gen batteries

Posted: 15 Apr 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Google X  lithium-ion batteries  drones  aluminium battery 

Google is on another technological endeavour, and this time the search engine giant plans to develop the next generation battery that will power future consumer electronics.

The Google X development lab began testing batteries developed for Google products by third parties towards the end of 2012, about the time Dr. Ramesh Bhardwaj, Apple's battery expert, joined to head up the Google X research team. Google appears to be pursuing a dual development strategy, which is working towards improving lithium-ion batteries while also seeking to develop new generation solid-state batteries.

The battery expert joined Google to head up a project in the Google X research lab focusing on how to improve batteries on a range of Google devices, which includes solid-state thin-film batteries that transmit through a solid, rather than a liquid.

The love affair with the humble battery is attracting a number of the biggest brands in the global market. Google and its rivals all want to greater control of their own development programmes at strategic sections of their supply chain. The power source is commonly a battery for most mass-market consumer applications.

Google's secretive development programme is known to embrace drones, cars and various hardware that demand more efficient and safer batteries. Although the next generation lithium-ion battery is the first objective to market dominance, a solid-state battery may be a more attractive solution to product designers in the longer term.

Earlier this month Stanford University scientists unveiled the first high-performance aluminium battery that is fast-charging, long-lasting and inexpensive. The Stanford team claimed the new prototype aluminium battery could fully charge a smartphone in just one minute.

Apple has been focusing on battery development for some time because the company realises that is the area its critics typically complain about when an Apple product is launched. The Apple Watch is the latest example of the trend, with the wristwatch only promising an 18-hour battery life that has not impressed prospective customers.

In recent months, the electric carmaker Tesla has been in the news more for its battery manufacturing plans than for its new models of vehicles.

And it's not just U.S. giant corporations that are trying to muscle in on the battery sector. Last month Dyson, the British vacuum cleaning company, invested $15 million into solid-state battery development, which aims to double the battery life of smartphones and power the electronic cars of the future.

Dyson is backing Sakti3, a start-up out of the University of Michigan. The company claims the solid-state battery technology will be a huge improvement on existing lithium-ion batteries, storing about twice as much power.

Once the next generation of lithium ion batteries or their solid-state rivals finally hit the streets, be prepared for a massive rush of new consumer products being launched as product designers try to capitalise on a longer lasting power source.

- Paul Buckley
  EE Times Europe

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