Tag Archives: Tesla

Next-Generation Battery Technology

I have written about a range of emerging technologies. While the devices and apps I’ve featured were designed to accomplish very different things, they do have one thing in common—they all need power. In some cases, power limitations are holding us back from achieving even greater performance and options. What’s happening in the world of battery technology? It would be great if we could charge our devices in under a minute and the charge would last for two weeks. It would also be great if our electric vehicles could travel more than 500 miles on a single charge and recharge in only 5 minutes. How close are we to that? Read on.

Basic Batteries

A battery is made up of a positive and negative electrode with an electrolyte that allows for the flow of ions between the two poles. It is possible to make a basic battery out of a copper penny (negative anode), a galvanized nail (positive cathode) and a potato or a lemon (electrolyte). Energy is created as electrons flow from the anode to the cathode through the medium. This basic technology has existed since the first electric battery was invented in 1799. The only problem was that no one had yet thought of electric cars (or cars at all for that matter) or drones or handheld devices that need batteries we wish lasted longer. The requirements for the original battery were simple in contrast.

Battery Developments

Current battery technologies have settled around alkaline, used for household tools like flashlights; lithium-ion, used in cell phones, laptops, portable tools, and even electric vehicles; and lead-acid batteries, which power the starters on gas and diesel  vehicles. These all use chemicals like cobalt, lead, nickel, graphite, manganese, and aluminum that are available in limited supply on earth and can pollute the environment when disposed of. Tesla, for example, is betting on lithium-ion technology as it completes its gigafactory in Nevada. The company will produce batteries for their cars and to store energy for home solar collectors, among other uses. Tesla is betting that large-scale production and intensive research will allow to improve battery life and sustainably source or create components.

The next generation of batteries may include graphene, which was discovered in 2004. Graphene is a single-atomic layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern. It is stronger than steel and diamonds and has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity ever recorded. Battery manufacturers are introducing graphene-enhanced batteries, but a full graphene battery is still in development. Companies, including Graphenano in Spain, are working to bring graphene batteries to market. One positive development is the availability of graphene filament from Graphene 3D Lab, which can be used in 3D printers (including home models) to print batteries. That could spawn a lot of new applications for the technology.

There is also active research in nanowires, which would store electrons and could be recharged more times than a traditional battery. Material scientists are searching for a substrate suitable for these fragile wires so that they can be used in a commercial product.


Battery technology research is marching ahead but demand for more efficient battery materials is adding pressure to speed the pace of development. Cars, electronic devices and sensors all require power that can be stored and used at the push of a button. I will be keeping my eye on new battery technology as we try to find the right blend of sustainable materials and modern efficient manufacturing.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Facing Digital Disruption

Image of airplanes in formation, one plane climbing straight up. In a recent Accenture report, 24% of surveyed CFOs believe that their company will cease to exist in its current form due to disruptive competition. Fifty-eight percent think their industry will be disrupted and 41% believe more than half of their competitors will disappear. The telling statistic, however, is that only 6% are preparing for the anticipated changes.

As I prepare to teach the summer AIM course Creating Business Solutions with Technology, I have been thinking a lot about disruption, particularly digital disruption. I define this as the forces of change, either within or outside the organization, which cause us to operate differently. Sometimes these are slight process changes or adjustments, but sometimes they completely change the way we do business and the way we serve customers. If only 6% of CFOs are preparing for these changes, I hope more CIOs and CEOs are planning ahead.

That’s Not How We Used To Do Things

Particularly for the IT department, technology changes are coming at a rapid pace. We need to become more efficient and deploy our resources and talents differently than ever before. No longer do we have a room full of hardware that we keep locked away from mere mortals. Our hardware and applications are now in the cloud and we are tasked with being service managers instead of systems or software managers. Because of the advances in networking, security, storage, and processing, our jobs have changed dramatically. At least they should have changed. If we are still doing our jobs the way we were 10 years ago, then there is a software or infrastructure service provider that would love to take our business.

Business Changes

Think about some of the things that you do differently as a consumer and you can begin to understand what businesses are facing in the way of new and different competition. The last time I went downtown to visit a travel agent was 10 years ago. I can’t think of the last time I phoned a hotel call center or front desk to make a room reservation. I do it all online. Sometimes I don’t even stay in traditional hotels but prefer a service like Airbnb. Taxi and even rental car services have been disrupted by new business models from companies such as Uber or Lyft. Tesla is threatening to disrupt the traditional dealership model by selling cars in small retail storefronts instead of huge showrooms with massive inventories supplied by the manufacturer. Not surprising, in a number of these disruptions, state legislators are trying to protect business as usual. That’s not how we do things around here, they say.

I send fewer letters than I did even a year ago. It is much easier to write and pay bills online. Mobile and online banking has disrupted the traditional bank downtown. I am sure that you can think of a lot more changes in your own lives due to advances in technology. These are the changes businesses need to grapple with or they risk becoming obsolete.

What To Do

Here are three steps that Accenture recommends to prepare for digital disruption:

  1. Conduct scenario planning to highlight areas of the operating model or current cost structure that need to be transformed.
  2. Create and implement an action plan to redefine your cost base with digital at the core. This is specific advice to the CFO, but applicable to all.
  3. Live and breathe customer obsession. Create strategies throughout the entire organization that focus on the customer first. What would make their lives easier and their transactions more efficient?

These strategies will help to ensure that you will be a viable competitor for the foreseeable future.


Let me know your thoughts. How has technology changed the way that you do business? How do you think things will be different five year from now? Are you ready?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.