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Thursday, July 3, 2008

300 Million Won't Cut It

John McCain is just being silly when he offers a 300 million dollar prize for the development of a battery that will deliver the same performance we enjoy from our fossil fueled cars. It's going to be some serious blue sky physics research to develop anything like what Grampy McSame wants, and it may well take decades. That's billions of dollars sunk in universities and giant particle accelerators to really test the limits of our knowledge of matter and energy. That's thousands of under-grad, graduate and post-doc men and women working on new ways of locking loose electrons up in an as yet unknown matrix. Most conservative cave men wanted better ends on their pointy sticks. Some egg headed cave man wimp noticed that rocks could make sharp edges when broken, and these pieces of broken rocks could be tied to sticks. While suspicious, the conservative cave men went along with the rock ends for their pointy sticks, but there was another gang of even wimpier cave men who wanted to be fed while they developed a way to use that shiny stuff that melted out of rocks around the fire. Financing the development of metal technology probably took about forty thousand years, but we were ruled by conservative cave men. I mean, where was the market for such stuff? How long would it take? Who would own the metal? Conservative cave man was suspicious. Then the wimpy cave men wanted to gather cave children together and teach them how to do things other than killing bears. There was a lot of sun god-ing and moon worshiping somewhere in the mix, and their followers developed writing to make sure nobody would ever forget the universe was carried about on the back of a turtle.

We (humans) (Europeans) have been making batteries for better than 200 years it's only been in the last thirty years that we could do better than the lead acid system, and lead acid remains the vast majority of installed storage capacity. Future electrical storage is going to have to be based on fantastic new materials that we can't even dream of at this point, based on science we've yet to develop. Ka-Ching! Unzip those change purses or get set to go back to those pointy sticks.

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