What’s the next big thing in tech right now?

By | January 24, 2024

Ok I’m taking a little break from the development articles for this one that’s more fun. What is the next big thing in technology right now? Clearly the answer is OpenAI and Generative AI overall. However, I’ve been seeing some posts about advancements in another technology that is very important. Maybe not to the level of Generative AI but still a game changer.

For years I’ve dreamed of better batteries. I’ve felt that all tech companies should be investing heavily in finding the battery technologies of the future. Batteries that can be charged faster and hold more capacity. Batteries that don’t rely on so many precious metals where the harvesting of these metals is often related to exploitative labor. Batteries that could be made cheaper. Batteries that aren’t as prone to failing by going on fire or exploding.

I have seen a few reports of battery advancements lately I want to share some that give me hope that we are in line for some significant advancements in battery technology.

First of all, it was reported that Microsoft has used AI to try to find new battery compositions that use less lithium, a rare metal, and expensive. Lithium batteries also have a tendency to explode or catch on fire. This has been a big problem with some EV cars but especially with kids toys like hoverboards and scooters. Using AI, Microsoft has claimed to find a composition for a battery that uses 70% less lithium than current batteries. There is a post about it here: Microsoft and PNNL revolutionize battery research with high-tech collaboration (msn.com). If this were to pan out, it would reduce costs, fires, and exploitative labor for mining the lithium. Here is an article about acquiring the precious metals for batteries and the human cost ‘Cobalt Red’ describes the ‘horror show’ of mining the element in the DRC : Goats and Soda : NPR

What about charging times? That is being worked on as well, and some of the best university researchers in world are working on this. Here are some of their advancements:

Solid state battery design charges in minutes, lasts for thousands of cycles (harvard.edu)
Fast-charging lithium battery seeks to eliminate ‘range anxiety’ | Cornell Chronicle
Researchers develop game-changing EV battery material that can reduce charging times to just 6 minutes (msn.com)

It really feels to me that we are on the brink of some huge advancements in batteries, and this may be almost as big as AI in how it changes the lives of everyone. I am very happy that Microsoft is being aggressive in their battery research, and I hope it continues.

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