In the coming years, with groundbreaking research in the interdisciplinary areas of science, medicine, healthcare and technology, it is possible that chemical batteries we are familiar with will be completely replaced.
Reasons to seek alternatives include bulkiness, instability in extremes of temperature, toxicity of chemicals and low sustenance.
Many modern batteries use lithium, an earth metal, as a medium for energy storage. Earth metals were chosen in the course of solid battery development as their ions have many favourable properties for such applications. Lithium has a high specific capacity (3860 mAhg/m) and also has relatively high electronegativity. However, raw lithium for new batteries is mined and used at ever-increasing rates, which may affect its cost in the long run. Lithium-ion batteries also carry risks of failure, which can damage device lifespan at best and cause harm or injury at worst.
Devices that can be safely bent out of shape, form curves or even fold up could be the next big thing in electronics. These devices are most likely to take the shape of ergonomic wearables that may even be expected to adhere to and remain on the skin for prolonged periods. Besides this putative trend in health and fitness trackers, there are increasingly credible online rumours that Samsung is working on its first flexible-display phone.
The increased need for, and the implementation of renewable or clean energy, questions the premise of its safety and reliability because it brings about the possibility of being threatened by hackers by way of theft or cyberattacks. The magnitude of real-time data and the distributed generation of energy make for easy gateways. Take charging an electric car, for example — a group of such vehicles are ultimately connected to a larger power unit, which can, if jeopardized, compromise the grid of an entire city.
Electric cars are great, in theory. They may help you reduce your personal travel costs, carbon footprint and emissions. However, their range (or distance they can drive on a single charge) may be underwhelming for new customers. The manufacturers of these fossil fuel-free vehicles claim that the range of their electric cars improves every product cycle; however, real-world tests may find that it falls short of maximum ranges on paper. Range depends heavily on the capacity of the batteries incorporated into electric cars.
What if we could generate all the energy required to power the whole of civilization, just using wind turbines? It might sound far-fetched but new research published this week has suggested that this scenario is not entirely unrealistic.
A new location for wind farms
It would however, require some significant changes to the location of wind farms – placing these far out in deep water areas of our oceans, as opposed to on land or relatively near to the shore.
The increase in need for, and the implementation of renewable or clean energy questions the premise of its safety and reliability because it brings about the possibility of it being threatened by hackers through theft or cyberattacks. The magnitude of real-time data and the distributed generation of energy make for easy gateways. Take charging an electric car, for example — a group of such vehicles are ultimately connected to a larger power unit, which can, if jeopardized, compromise the grid of an entire city.
Many of us have come across the concept of human-powered electronics and machines – the most popular example probably being the first Matrix movie or One Million Merits (the Black Mirror episode starring Daniel Kaluuya). However, reading about it on the internet afterwards may have rubbished the mechanics, which are often presented in rather horrible contexts, of getting appreciable amounts of energy out of human motion or physiology.
Hydrogen derived from water and exploited for its potentially huge energy payload is a substance of interest for those researching post-oil fuels and their uses. Some researchers and inventors conclude that hydrogen is the clean, green solution to humanity’s consistent need for power. The last few years alone have seen a revolution in hydrogen-purification methods. These include studies that have demonstrated chemical reactions that result in efficient and prolonged hydrogen production from solution, also known as ‘artificial photosynthesis’.
The concept of wearable technology has revolutionized not only the fields of health and medicine, but has also found a place in the electronics and appliances in our homes. Since acoustic interactions have become a way of life, a medium connecting humans and flexible wearables is definitely both progressive and convenient.
Solar energy involves using highly-specialised and engineered power cells to harvest the energy of sunlight and convert it into electricity that can be used by conventional appliances. Over the last 20 years, this concept has morphed from an unlikely pipe dream into a nearly-standard component of energy use in new buildings. Installations of sunlight-collecting panels in large numbers have become part of the everyday electricity grid in several countries, including China and Spain.
Lately, a lot of effort has been dedicated to researching new approaches to harvest green energy, from environmental resources. Green, or renewable energy, is collected from renewable resources, such as wind, geothermal heat, sunlight, waves and river motion. Furthermore, human body motion is also being considered as a potentially very rich source of energy. This is especially the case for low-energy consumption electronics, such as wearable, implantable and personal electronics and sensing technologies allowing for example, continuous health monitoring.
Storing natural energy sources like wind and solar energy is highly unpredictable, thus hastening the need to resort to alternate means. While some countries have taken to stockpiling hydroelectricity, other nations face challenges due to reasons like water scarcity or poor accessibility. Meanwhile, the daily requirements for energy via televisions, air conditioners, water heaters and so on, continue to escalate among both our homes and places of work.
Although it may be a fact that newer properties run on lesser energy, the amount of emissions, especially CO2, released by homes and buildings are still considerably greater than it should be for our planet.
Solar farms made of multiple large-scale panels are becoming increasingly efficient. This, in turn, is influencing their popularity as an alternative energy source for regional and national power grids. Despite this, a range of environmental particles and dirt types can impact on the ability of solar panels to gather energy. When this material comes into contact with solar cells, they may disrupt the panels, by either reflecting or absorbing sunlight, which in either case reduces the efficiency of the panel as a whole.
Whilst there are many offshore wind farms currently in place, their construction is limited by the depth of the water in which they stand. But now, advances in the technology have meant that for the first time, a full-scale floating wind farm is being built off the coast of Scotland.
Those of us living in cities often find it a relief to get out into the countryside or spend a day on the beach when the hot summer temperatures hit. Cities are subjected to something called the urban heat island effect – where temperatures are higher than the surrounding countryside due to a combination of factors. These include the use of dark building materials for roads and roofs, lack of vegetation, tall buildings blocking cooling winds and air pollution.
The International Energy Agency estimate that around the world, 1.8 billion people live without electricity. In Africa, this is a particular issue. In an interview with CNBC, Ponmile Osibo from the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association said: “The situation is Arica at the moment is quite significant, over 40 percent of the population does not have direct access to energy.”
Forget to charge your music player before a run, or the battery life of your smartphone insufficient to get you through the day? For a generation that depends on electronic devices for their daily needs, the challenge of charging or powering gadgets begs for a sustainable solution.