Beyond Paper – “Send me your ‘breakthrough’ rechargeable battery cell,” says Elon Musk


Elon Musk - "Just send me a working sample of a rechargeable battery cell.
Elon Musk – “Just send me a working sample of a rechargeable battery cell.

Rechargeable battery technology is everywhere around us, from smartphones to smart buildings, and everyone is constantly on the watch for “the next big thing,” to which Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says, “send me a sample.”

We really should have a section dedicated to “the next big thing” in rechargeable battery technology, and it would be full of “breakthrough” technology announcements (like this, this, this, this, and this) just about all of which are limited to papers, theories, PowerPoint presentations, or just good old snake-oil advertising. Given the limitations of even the best rechargeable battery technology, such as the lithium-ion cells making up the Tesla Model S or Toyota Prius Plug-In, we need those advancements.

Moore’s Law seems to indicate that computer power doubles every couple of years. Unfortunately, Moore’s Law doesn’t apply in the least to rechargeable battery technology. Indeed, it has taken more than a few years of development to extract just a fraction more performance out of lithium-ion batteries. Instead of waiting, automakers and manufacturers of other devices have gone back to their roots, improving efficiency in the rest of the system.

Still, some new rechargeable battery would be great news, if only it was something you could see and touch. Elon Musk, Tesla Motors CEO, went so far as to say, in a conference call, “My top advice really for anyone who says they’ve got some breakthrough battery technology is please send us a sample cell, okay. Don’t send us PowerPoint, okay, just send us one cell that works with all appropriate caveats, that would be great.” This goes beyond paper and slideshows, folks. However, I know the words of even a billionaire philanthropist won’t keep researchers from shouting “Eureka!” the next time they come up with “the next big thing” on paper.

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