a lab technician manipulates wires in a flow battery testing container

Vanadium Redox Flow Battery technology. Flickr user Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

It’s the one way in which every single technology-lover has been “in the red.”

Cell phones, tables, “phablets,” digital cameras, digital voice recorders, laptops, you name it – they’re all mobile by virtue of the battery that keeps them running. If you ask me, every last one seems to run out of juice at the most inopportune times. (Try during a phone contract negotiation…)

So, now that we have batteries that charge in 30 seconds (or a respectable 15 minutes) and coffee shops are installing wireless charging stations, is it too much to ask of Silicon Valley to churn out a standard battery with long life when charged? Or how about one with an ultra-long life span, to avoid replacing the batteries that simply stop holding a charge?

This is a big deal.

For one thing, our inability to create power cells which hold substantial amounts of energy could “be bringing us down on a much larger scale. There have been huge innovations in “green” or sustainable power solutions, but when it comes to storage of that clean energy, there’s a marked lack of capacity.

Silicon Valley hasn’t had much patience with battery tech development because it’s concerned with quick return on investment, and large-scale batteries are much more in vogue.

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) has pumped millions of dollars into its research and development on this front. Its projects include a variety of energy storage technology which promise to release stored energy into the grid during peak energy usage times, to the exact areas which need it. The Grid-Scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage initiative includes concepts like “flow batteries,” compressed air energy storage, and even magnetic storage methods. (Fascinating stuff, I highly recommend clicking around the “GRID” webpage.)

Elsewhere in R&D:

There’s potential in a number of other research projects across the globe, including the University of Wisconsin’s success with nanotube conductors and while he doesn’t promise much innovation in the battery cells themselves, Tesla’s Elon Musk recently announced plans for building a $5 billion battery plant that he says will reduce the cost of lithium-ion battery capacity by 30 percent and double the worldwide production capacity. Ambri, a liquid metal battery company out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that receives both private and government funding, promises a project that will retain 98% battery capacity even after ten years of daily charge and discharge cycles.

Some laptops have reached the 2-day charge point, according to recent testing by the Wall Street Journal. But as I concluded this post, my laptop pinged a panic message that it’s just about to go dark.

2015, I’m looking to you to be the year when the “5% battery life, connect to power supply” message is a cute, “Remember when?!” memory from the past. We have a long way to go.

Have anything to add? Share your thoughts below in the comments!