Supercapacitors etc. Been reading up on these recently – you can get 5 volt ones the size of pennies off ebay for a couple of dollars


There are pros and cons as replacement batteries… one of the cons being that at the moment, they take up a lot more space than normal batteries, but that is changing fast… especially with the onset of graphene tech – and there are already a bunch of videos about how to DIY this on youtube, but… it’s early days…

But they charge really fast, last nearly forever, hold a lot of charge, aren’t so enviro-toxic, and are made out of cheaper stuff than normal batteries.

There’s a bit of a left-field reason why I find supercapacitors interesting though… and that is the possibility for using them as money… or (more accurately), using them as a storage of money. What Ron Paul (of whom I am not a disciple) refers to as Natural Money.

So you have some little gadget that attaches to your phone… and it can measure the charge in these little disks. It can transfer charge from one disk to another. Each disk can hold 1$ or $100, or whatever the technology allows… and if you want to buy something, you just swap disks, or swap some charge between the disks.

People can make money the way they normally make money – teaching, or gardening, or programming or whatever… but they can also make money by putting a bunch of solar panels on the roof, or attaching a generator to a cycle etc. Everyone uses energy… so whatever happens, you’re not left with worthless bits of paper.

All of which seems like a nice idea… but there’s a couple of catches.

1) Energy is already really cheap.

Know how much it costs to charge up a cellphone for a year? Less than a dollar. An ipad, a couple of dollars… and this is the way gadgets appear to be going, from LEDs to laptops, and the only time (I suspect) that this trend doesn’t apply, is when you bang up against the laws of physics, ie: heating water.

And although I guess I could get used to it, I’d feel a bit iffy about carrying enough energy to boil 100+ jugs of water round in my pocket… just to have $70. That’s enough energy to blow your goolies to Timbuktoo… assuming you have them etc, which you might not if you’re carrying beta-version micro-nukes around in your pocket. You get to fuck up just once. Think on young jedi, think on.

There’s an article here about people using Tesla batteries to power their houses. Apparently the batteries in the car can store 6-8 times the power of the home units. Using a ton of steel and glass to move 70kg of human about the place uses a lot of power as well. A barmy amount. More than a horse’s worth. How did we get to the point that needing “the power of 60 horses” to carry one human was seen as a good thing? What are we? Lard-arses?

Yes we are.

2) Is that 20MwH in your pocket, or are you just pleased to seem me?

Yea – carrying huge amounts of stored charge around in your pocket could be a bit scary.

Here’s a description of how to make a DIY EMP weapon (knocks out electronics), and someone else has done an entire art(?) project on making DIY weapons on things that you can buy in the duty-free section of airports.

He does this to demonstrate that the “security precautions” at airports are basically a type of theatre… but know what? Unless they get all gropey or x-rayey, I kindof like the theatre. Going up in a plane is scary enough as it is. What if there are people with beards etc? Or with excessive amounts of quite odd looking makeup?

But anyway – I can see various security agencies taking fright at people carrying around massive amounts of stored energy. In the future, everything will be illegal until proved innocent.

3) Leakage. This could be a good thing though – the leakage in the Corn-Exchanges in the middle ages is one of the reasons that they wound up being so wealthy – everyone spent as fast as they could. Demurrage I think they call it – some currencies (eg: Freicoin) have this built in. This is not going to work for Freicoin – any system that uses Demurrage needs a) to have very low transactional friction and b) not be directly competing with identical currencies that don’t have it.

So maybe that’s not such a good idea afterall.

It does kindof bug me though that a bitcoin is brought into existence by wasting a sod of a lot of energy breaking an arbitrary bit of crypto… when a better system would be a coin is brought into existence by creating energy… and in fact the energy itself has intrinsic value.

Then again… maybe currency itself is incompatible with a post-scarcity society, which is (with a little help from gen-tech and graphene) where we might be headed, whether we arrive in one piece, or not.

2 Comments » for Batteries
  1. jampel says:

    Awesome post. I think that you describe a great system. To me it seams the big money ($70 in your pocket) would not be met by transferring energy but the devise itself, the power contained within being a wash comparatively. On the other hand this still allows for low cost transactions to be met with actually electrical (or chemical) energy transfer. This being somewhat similar to our dollar and cents system.
    Also, when we introduce graphine it seams to me that we start to blur the line between matter and the energy stored within.
    I wonder what happens if we hypothetically introduce a functioning affordable household fuel cell to the picture?
    be well

  2. roid says:

    Our mobile phones may well be super-computers in all of our pockets, but they are getting so incredibly powerful that they are throttled down at all times. We are limited by batteries, and the capability to dissipate the heat from all that computation without burning our hands.

    This is what makes me think that one day we’ll all be using our smartphones to heat our space-suits. When we’re cold, we’ll throttle up a bit, and as a sideeffect our computational vision systems will see a bit clearer for the extra cycles.
    Those “Diamond-pattern” resistive heaters inside the pressure suits in Robinson’s Mars trillogy always seemed so wasteful to me, they’re just wasting energy to make heat? bleh!

    So yeah, computation is ubiquitous (basing an economy around it, ie: bitcoin, makes me nervous), but it’s waste product – HEAT – will always have nice comforting direct uses for us squishy humans. I wish my cheap battery-electric socks could do something useful while they warm my legs, like play a video game or 3D map my surroundings. Meanwhile the heat from my laptop is doing nothing but burning my lap, and yet i’m also wearing a cumbersome jacket to protect myself from the cold? If only my jacket could cool my laptop while warming me ;)

    phew, that was nice getting that brainstorming out.