The Google X lab, Google’s top-secret lab, is working hard to improve mobile devices by building a better battery. The issue is that there are now flying drones, wearable electronic devices and so on that are going to need batteries that meet more specific needs. Lithium-ion batteries that are in cell phones, and alkaline batteries that are in flashlights, are not going to be appropriate for these new devices. It is for this exact reason that IBM and Tesla are also researching how to build a better battery as well.
Solid-state, thin-film batteries have the advantage of being thinner and lighter, but they also have a longer life. However, they are expensive and they are not easy to produce, even though they would be nice to have in cell phones and Google Glass. This style battery would perfectly power the revolutionary computing of Google’s glucose-monitoring contact lens. This would be due to the lack of acidic, flammable juice in the core of the battery that could leak.
According to the company giant, future computers may very well be a part of us. Comprehensive wearable electronics and implanted devices raise health concerns. There cannot be a battery style that uses toxic liquids in an implanted device that could leak into the bloodstream. This is one of the company’s focuses in creating a new and different type of better battery.
Lithium-ion batteries are what powers the Google Loon, an Internet-broadcasting balloon relays Google is testing for the vastly changing world. Batteries freeze when they reach certain temperatures. Currently, the secret lab engineers and researchers coat the batteries with a blend of graphite and wax to diffuse the heat more evenly. The company’s other secret lab, the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP), which is headed by ex-DARPA chief Dr. Regina Dugan, discarded a battery project that would have improved the life of a mobile battery by five times.
In 2012, Dr. Ramesh Bhardwaj led a team that tested other company’s newly developed batteries to use in Google devices. In 2013, the group changed gears into developing its own technology for better batteries. The group is part of the super secret research lab that has only four members. Google is not commenting on the project and will not allow reporters access to Dr. Bhardwaj.
In the past few years Google has been adding other industries to its wheelhouse. The company giant has added robotics and communications, transportation, designing new devices that require more efficient batteries and health care. Each of these industries could use safer, more efficient batteries.
According to Dr. Bhardwaj, the company has at least 20 battery-powered projects. The latest company’s self-driving car uses batteries that are recharged using electricity. Google’s Glass Internet-connected eyewear’s first version had an extremely short battery life. Also, using nanoparticles for disease diagnoses uses a monitoring device that is battery-powered. There are a lot of different battery needs to be met.
Google has the desire to have more control in select places of the supply chain. Other technology companies are also working on developing their own batteries, such as Tesla Motors Inc., Apple, and International Business Machines Corp. However, development efforts have made only small gains thus far. This is a contrast for any technology company, as they are used to making giant steps in the effectiveness of semiconductors.
By Jeanette Smith
Photo courtesy of OZinOH – Flickr License