A plug for the battery

IT IS more than two-and-a-half centuries since Benjamin Franklin grouped a number of electrically charged Leyden jars together and, using a military term, called them a “battery”. It is 25 years since Sony released a commercial version of the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which now sits snugly in countless smartphones, laptops and other devices. In an era of robots and drones, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, the lithium-ion battery lacks futuristic glamour. Its deficiencies are quotidian and clear: witness the scrum of people around charging stations at airports. Yet few areas of technology promise as great an impact in as short a time. Increasingly, lithium-ion batteries are vaulting out of pockets into power tools, vehicles, homes and even power stations. Carmakers in America, China and Japan are rushing to secure supplies…

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