Xenon Difluoride batteryEnlarge Photo
The electric motor is a great invention, but it's entirely limited by the power that the battery can feed to it, and that power is limited by the amount of energy the battery can store.
Battery technology is in constant development behind the scenes, though, and the latest to emerge in research at Washington State University promises to be the most powerful non-nuclear energy storage ever.
Now meet the Xenon difluoride (XeF2) battery, made of a material normally used to etch silicon conductors. Xenon difluoride molecules are usually kept relatively far apart, but to make the battery they are squeezed together at pressures of one million atmospheres--similar to those you'd find half way to the Earth's core--between two diamond anvils.
Under such massive pressures the molecules go from their normal state to a two-dimensional semiconductor, but then begin to form three-dimentional metallic network structures. This forces the mechanical energy of the compression process to be stored as chemical energy, just like you'd find in a regular battery.
Potential applications for the new technology are huge. Their potential use includes superconductors, super-oxidising materials to break down chemical and biological agents, and new fuels.
Most exciting for us is the potential as an energy storage device. Imagine the benefits for electric vehicles - such high energy and storage means much smaller batteries and much lower weight for the same power, or much greater power and storage as you increase the number of batteries.
They could be fit easily into redesigned chassis with more space devoted to passengers or moved around to alter weight distribution to the benefit of handling. Perhaps individual wheel motors could have their own battery sets that could be removed and replaced with ease.
Of course we're speculating at this stage and the technology is in it's infancy - but new battery technology is always exciting news for the electric vehicle industry.