I find it interesting to think about energy and how it’s stored. Humans store energy in the form of fat. We eat food, and whatever energy we don’t use immediately get stored in our fat cells. This works very well for us. However, electricity is a little different. Right now the only technology we have to store electricity are batteries.
Battery technology has evolved over the past 100 years, but not by much. At one time we used lead cored batteries, but the amount of energy stored was limited and the lifespan of the battery’s charge was limited. New technologies extended battery life, and now we’ve progressed to Lithium-Ion batteries which power most of our electronic devices. However, they are still limited.
Why is battery technology so important for the future? It has to do with sustainable forms of energy production. One of the detractors of solar power isn’t the cost of making solar panels, as the industry grows economies of scale will be reached. We are already seeing a drop in price due to more companies entering the solar energy market: Solar City and Sun Edison to name a few. The issue is being able to store the power.
The current technology for solar power has us only being able to collect and store approximately 30% of the energy. This makes battery technology a highly important focus not just for energy companies, but also consumers. The planet is our only home, so being able to effectively use all of its resources responsibly will allow us to become more energy independent while also not destroying our home.
There exciting thing on the horizon for battery tech. Graphene and nanotechnology are the biggest bright spots on the horizon. Graphene is a new material made from carbon atoms linked together. It conducts electricity incredibly well, better than any other material we currently have, and it can also store energy at a higher rate than Lithium-Ion. Nanotechnology coupled with graphene show the promise of a limitless energy future.