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Ibm Aims For a Battery Breakthrough

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IBM has announced a multiyear effort to increase the performance of rechargeable batteries tenfold, with the goal of designing batteries that enable electric vehicles to travel 300 to 500 miles on a single charge. Currently, electric vehicles can only go about 50 to 100 miles before needing to recharge. "We want to see if we can find a radically different battery technology," says Chandrasekhar Narayan, manager of Science & Technology Organization at IBM Research's Almaden lab.

IBM is leading a consortium that will develop batteries using lithium and oxygen instead of the potentially combustible lithium-ion mix that is commonly used in consumer electronics and early electric vehicle batteries. The new batteries also could be used to store energy in electric grids. Industry and government leaders have called for this type of effort due to concern that the U.S. will miss out on the switch from gasoline to electricity as the primary power source for light vehicles. The concern is that the U.S. dependency on the Middle East for oil will be replaced by a new dependency on Asia for batteries. "We lost control of battery technology in the 1970s," says former Intel chairman Andy Grove. "Battery technology will define the future, and if we don't act quickly it will go to China and Japan."

IBM expects approximately 300 top scientists and battery experts to attend a conference on the project scheduled for late August. Narayan says that IBM's expertise in nanotechnology, materials science, chemistry, and supercomputing makes it well-positioned to lead the project, and "we'll know in two years if there are any show-stoppers," he says.

From Business Week
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