Batteries That Breathe

Using oxygen as a cathode could give lithium batteries 10 times the energy

2 min read

With the launch of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, it's been a big year for electric vehicles, but their batteries still have a fairly limited range without a recharge. For a car running on today's lithium-ion batteries to match the range provided by a tank of gasoline, you'd need a lot more batteries, which would weigh down the car and take up too much space.

But what if you could take away one of the electrodes in a battery and replace it with air? Researchers estimate that a lithium-air battery could hold 5 to 10 times as much energy as a lithium-ion battery of the same weight and double the amount for the same volume. In theory, the energy density could be comparable to that of gasoline.

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How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid

The rules of the Internet can also balance electricity supply and demand

13 min read
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How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid
Dan Page
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Bad things happen when demand outstrips supply. We learned that lesson too well at the start of the pandemic, when demand for toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, masks, and ventilators outstripped the available supply. Today, chip shortages continue to disrupt the consumer electronics, automobile, and other sectors. Clearly, balancing the supply and demand of goods is critical for a stable, normal, functional society.

That need for balance is true of electric power grids, too. We got a heartrending reminder of this fact in February 2021, when Texas experienced an unprecedented and deadly winter freeze. Spiking demand for electric heat collided with supply problems created by frozen natural-gas equipment and below-average wind-power production. The resulting imbalance left more than 2 million households without power for days, caused at least 210 deaths, and led to economic losses of up to US $130 billion.

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