155: Batteries to Get Charged Up About

Matt and Sean talk about five emerging battery technologies that could be seen more in the future.

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “Are These Batteries The Future Of Energy Storage?”: https://youtu.be/n1TBAWlbXKI?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi4dFnLD9622FK77atWtQVv7

YouTube version of the podcast: https://www.youtube.com/stilltbdpodcast

Get in touch: https://undecidedmf.com/podcast-feedback

Support the show: https://pod.fan/still-to-be-determined

Follow us on Twitter: @stilltbdfm @byseanferrell @mattferrell or @undecidedmf

Undecided with Matt Ferrell: https://www.youtube.com/undecidedmf 

★ Support this podcast ★

Today’s episode of Still To Be Determined, we’re gonna be talking about the positives and negatives of different battery solutions. Hey everybody, as usual, I’m Sean Ferrell. I’m a writer. I write some sci-fi. I write some stuff for kids, and I’m just generally curious about technology and luckily for me, my brother is Matt Ferrell.

That’s right, that Matt Ferrell. Of undecided with Matt Ferrell, A shockingly accurate mm-hmm. YouTube channel name that he was able to grab. Yes. Before another Matt Ferrell grabbed it. Matt, how you doing? I’m doing good.

How about you? How, how’s the weekend going?

I’m doing well. It was almost uncomfortably warm.

A couple days ago, we had some rather rainy muggy days, and then it’s now uncomfortably cold. So here we are. . Thank you. Thank you. Global weather change. Yes. Before we get into today’s discussion, and we’re gonna be talking about Matt’s most recent episode, which is about battery developments. We’re gonna be talking briefly about some conversations from our previous episode.

This is from episode 1 54 on passive houses. This, of course, was centered on. ongoing project to build his new home. There were comments like this from Emmanuel who wrote, would love to see you visit a home or construction show in Europe. I’ve been, and I think what they are doing is amazing and so Emmanuel, I extend this invitation to you if you wanna pay for Matt I to go over to Europe.

Yes, we’re ready to go. We’re all

in. We’re ready to go. .

That’s right. It would be very interesting though. I do agree. I, you know, tongue in cheek, Emmanuel, thank you for the comment. I would be very interested to see what building developments look like in Europe compared to the standard American approach.

and your approach, which is you’re doing it with a lot of hands-on self-directed decision making as opposed to buying something from a larger development where all the houses are being built in exactly the same way. I would be interested to see what European designs look like.

Yeah, me too. It’s like a lot of comments that I’ve seen center around like, I can’t believe you’re building your house with wood

It’s like, that’s very uncommon in some countries, so it’s, it’s, I would love to. What the standards are and to be able to talk to people over there about

it. There’s also this comment from Mike who wanted to talk about the tech side of your new home. Mike wrote, I just started with home assistant and would love to see what you’re going to do if you’re a smart home.

So I imagine you have plans many, many videos, I’m sure, where we’ll be talking about exactly what the tech inside your house looks like.

Many, many plans, John . So many plans. Yeah. I’m building my house around Apple’s home. But that doesn’t mean it’s gonna be 100% home kit. I am probably gonna be using either home bridge or a version of home assistance to kind of fill in the gaps of what I want my smart home to be able to do.

But yeah, I’m, I’ve got a lot of things in motion to try to. I wanna make this the smartest smart home I can possibly make it good goals to have. Hopefully it doesn’t become self-aware .

There was also this from Emmanuel Lace who wrote, Hey Matt, I think it was your channel where I first heard a vacuum insulated glass.

I don’t know if residential products are available. Could you speak to any research you did into high performance windows, if there are any vacuum insulated products even available for residential and how you settled on the windows you did. I love the project and thank you. So you wanna talk a little bit about your windows, where I know in the video you mentioned how excited you were and you could see the look on your face in the video.

If anybody wants to go back to his channel undecided with Matt Ferrell and check out his passive house video, which is titled, I believe, I didn’t know A Home Could Do This. Yes. Um, and there’s a clip in it where Matt is opening and closing a window and you would think that it was a little kid coming down on Christmas morning and finding a brand new bicycle.

You wanna talk about those windows for a moment? ?

Yeah. I, I didn’t handpick the windows that are in my house. It was, they were picked by Unity Homes, who’s the company that constructed the house, but they’re the exact windows I was hoping to get, which was triple glazed tilt turn, European style windows.

And part of the reason for that was the way they close and clamp shut. They have multiple points of where they kind of like clamp into the window. To seal it. So you’re getting little clamps on the top, the bottom, the sides. And so like that sucker, when it’s shut, it is shut. Where typical American windows, it’s like you close it and it’s basically just hoping it has enough pressure to hold itself shut.

And then you have like this one point where you lock it. It’s like not a great system. These tilt turn windows are like, Like airlocks, , right? Close them. And then triple glaze. The performance is just way higher than double, and of course, single. But for the vacuum sealed stuff, I have come across that in different research I’ve been doing.

And there’s even other forms that you can go to that are still kinda in the research phase. I haven’t seen much of them available on the consumer market, but I, I do still have to explore more into that because there is other options. But from what I’ve. They tend to be pricey, so it’s like, is it worth the extra cost for the small amount of performance gain that you get?

It’s like that’s what you have to start to juggle, and in most cases the answer is no, cuz you can get close enough with something that’s already on the market. But fast forward 10 years, suddenly that might be the cheaper, better option. Um, so it’s like for right now, it’s not the best. But in the future, maybe, but I do need to do more exploration around that.

Cause there’s some interesting technologies kind of coming to market for Windows.

It might be about scale of production as well. Yep, yep. If they’re making 10,000 windows, a year right now it may be prohibitively expensive on the residential side, but when they can get that up to a hundred thousand, suddenly the price is more of re within reach for you on the residential side.

So thank you to our commenters on our previous episode, and now onto the new discussion, which is about Matt’s most recent video. Are these batteries, the future of energy storage? Question

mark. Question

mark. And this is your, you, you mentioned five and you talk about five different types of B battery technology.

And you mentioned at the outset, this isn’t in any particular order. Yep. But if there was some sort of criteria for selecting top to bottom, what would your number one have been? Probably

sodium. Mainly because we have a lot of sodium in the world, , it’s like, it’s very easy to get and the where it looks like this technology can go is gonna be demonstrably better than what we have today.

So it’s like, once again, fast forward five years, 10 years from now, it’s like, it feels like sodium is gonna be a really compelling battery in a lot of use cases. Mm-hmm. and very recyclable, very environmentally friendly compared to other batteries that are out there. It, it’s, it’s also John B. Good enough has got, he’s got his name on a version of this that’s out there that looks really compelling.

Mm-hmm. . So it’s like, that’s the one I kind of like look at. But it’s still, even though there are sodium batteries coming to market now and next year and stuff like that, it feels like it’s, it’s still very early days and it’s gonna be a decade before it really gets kind of a, gets, it gets its legs underneath it and becomes a

mainstream product.

So what other criteria did you use to compile this list? Because you mentioned there’s a very, very long list of various technologies that could have been included in this. If your video, which I believe was what, 15 minutes long? Um, it was 15 or 16 minutes. Yeah. If you, if you went through an exhaustive list of all the ones you know, about, how long would your video have been?


Well, funny you bring that up, Sean, because the first draft of the script was basically that, and it was like a top. Batteries and it was, I believe, 3,500 words, or it was close to 4,000 I think. And that would’ve been, it’s a term paper minute video. Yeah. 25 minute video, maybe three minute video. It would’ve been extremely long.

And when I was reading through, when I was reading through it, I was like, oh my God. This is so boring. so boring. I was like, this is, this is, this is too much. This is just too much information. This is like one thing after another, after another. It’s like, oh my God, there’s three more to go. I’m done. I’m tapped out.

It was like, that was me.

So you’re saying you’re, you want your audience to get a charge out of your battery

discussion? Oh, thank you. Sean. Bravo, sir? Yes,

yes. Thank you. Good night everybody. This has been still to be determined. ,

our final episode. Never to be heard again, , but yeah, it’s, I, it was one of those, I trimmed it down to five for, I wanted to make a video that was a little tighter, a little quicker to get through something that would stay engaging.

And the, my criteria for how I cut it down was I wanted to kind of focus on the batteries that I. , even though I wasn’t ranking them, I was trying to get them down to the batteries. I was the most interested in as far, far as potential replacements or siblings to lithium ion batteries, like the cells that we have in cars, EVs, home battery storage, things like that, that will affect consumers directly because some of the other batteries that were on the list were like, oh, that’s for grid scale.

liquid metal batteries and gigantic flow batteries and stuff like that. That’s where I kind of created the, the delineation. The delineation I can speak mm-hmm. of where I kind of cut things and by doing that I was able to get it down to five. But yeah, it was not a, it was not meant to be a comprehensive list cuz Oh my God.

Even my 10 was not a comprehensive lust anyways, really long. Right.

So you had a list of 10 originally? Yeah. But off the top of your head, ,

if you

were to talk about any variety of batteries that you would be able to talk about to a level that you would feel comfortable with, how many could that have been?

Oh, there are, well, I mean the, the fur, the further I got in, it’s also you’re getting into technologies that are start to get, get very boutique. Mm-hmm. like, like they’re like, this battery’s never going to be in mainstream. Right. And so it’s like, well, why bother talking about it? So if I was gonna keep it to kind of mainstream batteries, it’d be eight to 10.

Once you get beyond that, it gets into a territory of like, yeah, that battery may be a thing, but it’s gonna be a thing. One specific industry or one specific use case, and how many would that be? Yeah. Oh, there’s a, there’s Sean, there are so many , there’s so many. One of the

boutique uses. Tell us about one of the boutique uses that you’ve, that you ran across.

Like there’s a battery that only powers flowers. Like,

it’s like, it’s the diamond battery. I made a video out under a while back. It’s like, it, it’s basically using radiation. It’s like a nuclear battery essentially, and it can last. Hundreds and hundreds of years. The amount of energy it makes though, is so small.

It’s like, okay, let’s put this in an Internet of Things sensor that goes on this light post over here. Mm-hmm. and it will run for basically ever. It’s like that’s a very niche use case. , right? It’s like, it’s never gonna be in your car, it’s never gonna be in your, your watch. Right. It’s not gonna be in your smartphone.

It’s like, it’s it’s so low powered. It’s, it’s a beta voltaic. It’s like, so beta voltaic are like, it is a thing and they can do really amazing things and it’s really, it’s got a, it’s got a, a. , but holy cow, it’s not

gonna be something. Would that be the kind of thing that would be put onto like in a satellite and send Yeah.

A satellite off? Yep. And it’s got this little tiny thing running in the background for 10,000 years. Yep,

exactly. . So it’s like stuff like that, it’s like, it’s, it’s so niche. It’s a, it’s gonna be real. It’s, it already is. It works. It, it’s a good thing, but it’s not for all of us. It’s for a very small


Right. In relation to that conversation that we just had about like how many, could you talk about how many are there out there that are, are. You know, running about, I wanted to bring up this comment from Nexus 5 45 who wrote aluminum ion and aluminum air batteries are still the two I’m most interested in seeing developed.

It feels like the weight for new battery types has been one of the longest and technology. Would you agree with that comment that the weight has been long, or do you think this is an area of research that has been running in the background? So long that the public is just not aware of what is going on.

Yeah. Because we haven’t seen these things show up on store

shelves. Yep. It’s that it’s, this has never stopped, like battery research has never stopped. What’s changed now is with the advent of electric vehicles finally becoming like a mainstream thing and things like our phones becoming so ubiquitous in our lives, the electric mobility.

For pocket devices or cars. It’s like a hockey stick growth for what we need for batteries. And that growth of batteries has spurred more research and more people getting invested in it because there’s this need for better energy storage technology, but it’s never stopped. It’s just increasing. And that’s part of the reason why it feels like every week there is a.

New announcement from somebody doing, Hey, we broke this record and we broke that record and here’s this totally, you know, recyclable battery, made it a paper and like mm-hmm , we can print this one and we can do this. It’s like, that’s why it feels like it’s happening at a wrap. Rapid pace right now. This has always been, been done, but it was just with fewer people because there wasn’t that urgent need.

So it’s never stopped. But at the same time, it takes years to get a battery from lab. out to the market. And so that’s one of the problems whenever I talk about these batteries, people are like, well, where is it? It’s never gonna happen. It’s like, Hey, man, sometimes take a decade or more for one of these batteries to get out to market.

I mean, just look at solid state. We’ve been talking about solid state batteries for two decades or more. , it’s like it’s, and it’s still not a thing. It’s so close, but it’s still not a thing because. Hurdles they have to figure out as they’re ramping up production and like the, you know, half the batteries they’re making have to be junked cuz it’s, they’re, they’re not up to standard or they’re not performing well and so it’s like they have to get through all these hurdles of how to ramp up manufacturing to a level where it’s cost effective.

You just have to fit patients . That’s really all it is. There’s

also a certain amount of silence. Doesn’t mean lack of information in the background and. As you mentioned, there are the changes in what we carry about with us in our daily lives, and there’s also mm-hmm. , the media’s interest in reporting this stuff.

Oh, yeah. When? During the seventies, eighties, early nineties, a battery breakthrough. A newsroom editor would be like, who cares? Yeah. But today they can connect those dots to people’s lives. So now they’ll share that story. They’ll maybe sometimes come up with a headline that is misrepresenting the actual breakthrough.

But yes, ultimately this kind of information, this kind, these kinds of breakthroughs have been happening literally for decades. Just nobody knew about it because three guys in the back room at M I T are like, we did it. And then nobody in the media cares, so nobody. Yeah, it’s become more

mainstream. The interest around this is a little more mainstream than it used to be, so that’s another thing to keep

in mind.

You mentioned just a few minutes ago about your delineation between what to talk about, what not to talk about, included? Well, this is more grid storage, and this is more like actively in our individual lives. There was this comment from Leonard Austin who spoke about that very specific thing. He wrote a big fan of this type of comparison video and would love to see a similar one on grid scale energy storage.

So do you think you’ll take the second half of your script and say, well now let’s talk about grid storage .

I might do that because of the way I had to cut this down and I was curious to see how people would. Take this video cuz it was kind of a gamble. I haven’t done one like this in a long time and I was curious if people would be interested.

People are, so it’s like, I think I might do a kind of part two focused on those other forms because we already have the research, we already have a piece together. We have to kinda write the script around it.

Yeah. So yeah, there’s also this to keep in mind, this kind of top five can be evergreen a year from now.

You might revisit this exact video and just do an update. . Yep. And you know, maybe something drops out of your top five and something else jumps in because of a recent breakthrough. So, yep, exactly. I think this kind of information and updating of information is very interesting. And finally, I wanted to share this because I thought this was a nice positive note to close on.

This one’s from Round Tableist who wrote, my uncle worked on battery technology for Dunlop here in Australia in the 1970s. And. It always frustrated him how slowly they made progress due to the relatively primitive material science they had on at the time. Sadly, he’s no longer with us, but I often think of how excited he would be if he could see how things have progressed in the two thousands.

Despite some of the challenges the modern world is throwing at us today. It is great that there are still things to wonder at. I thought that was a really lovely, a really lovely sentiment. Thank you round tableist for sharing. Thank you and yeah, you’re not wrong. People who toiled away at some of the things that we’re now wrestling with people who toiled away in the seventies and eighties who are no longer with us, would be shocked at some of the the ways that we live our lives today.

So, mm-hmm. to listeners. I wonder what is it that you wonder at? Let us know in the comments. As you’ve already surmised your comments drive the content of this show, and they also help drive the content of Matt’s channel, undecided with Matt Ferrell, which is of course our mothership. Don’t forget, if you’d like to support this show and his show, please consider reviewing us on YouTube, apple, Google, Spotify, wherever it was.

He found this podcast. Go back. And leave a comment, leave a review, subscribe and tell your friends. All of that really helps support the channel. And if you’d like to more directly support us, you can click the join button on YouTube or you can go to still tbd.fm and you can click the Become a Supporter button, which allows you to throw some coins at our heads.

The bruises will heal and the podcast gets made, and we thank you. All of these are great ways to support the show. Thank you so much for listening and watching. We’ll talk to you next time.

← Older
Newer →

Leave a Reply