Gizmodo just published this excerpt from the book Bottled Lightning, by Seth Fletcher. Called “patent trolls: The Knock-Down, Drag-Out Fight Over the Next Generation of Batteries”, this little piece not only tells an interesting story of the melodrama surrounding a major scientific and technological breakthrough (one that you have to suspect has been repeated throughout the history of science and technology, in one variation or another), but it gives a remarkably clear explanation of lithium ion technology.
Here’s a sample:
Within six months, Armand thought he had learned how to make the compound work. He believed that making particles of lithium iron phosphate that were each about the size of a particle of soot could solve the problem of low electronic conductivity. When individual particles “go nano,” or get down to the unfathomably tiny scale of less than a hundred nanometers wide, the particles are almost all surface area, and more surface area allows electrons to roam more freely. In the process of making those small particles, however, Armand’s group happened upon the second key to making lithium iron phosphate work. They started with a precursor material made of iron, phosphorus, and oxygen. Then they added a lithium compound and fired it. The burning of the lithium–containing compound ended up coating the tiny particles with carbon, and the conductivity shot up. “It solved everything,” Armand said. “The phosphate was perfect.”
Great Sunday morning reading, I just had a nice sit-down and read of the whole post… and had no idea it came from Fletcher’s book. This is the third time I’ve inadvertently read a piece excerpted, or inspired by the book. Guess it’s time to order it.