December 3, 2012
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Image Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The United States Department of Energy has announced that they’re going to spend $120 million over the next 5 years to fund research into making batteries that hold 5x more energy than the ones that are out on the market today. They also intend make batteries that cost 5x cheaper. According to Computerworld, this new program will “reproduce development environments that were successfully used by Bell Laboratories in the World War II Manhattan Project that produced an atomic bomb.” Six national laboratories, five universities, and four private companies are going to get together to try and achieve these ambitious goals.

So why now? We’d like to think it’s because smartphones are popular, but it’s more complicated than that. Improvements in battery technology have been practically nonexistent for the past few decades because no one wants to invest the time and energy into making gizmos last longer. When you reframe the problem by looking at energy sustainability and manufacturing ultra clean cars, then the discussion changes completely.

Just imagine electric cars becoming mainstream because they’re finally cheaper? Or how about electric cars that can actually be used by industries that require vehicles that travel long distances? And think about soldiers who need to carry massive batteries to power their communications equipment, imagine making their load 5x lighter so they can carry either additional supplies or be more nimble?

We welcome America’s investments in this field, and we hope something similar will happen in other countries. China in particular comes to mind. If they can create not just revolutionary battery technology, but then also figure out how to mass produce it, then they’re going to put themselves in the driver’s seat of the future of the electronics industry. And what about Europe? Don’t they have scientists too? Why isn’t this a global project?

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