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A Different Kind of Air Car
Posted In: Technology Articles  1/16/12
By: Chris Capps

As we still find ourselves waiting twelve years after the dawn of the millennium for a flying car, new trends in energy development has led researchers to take their efforts instead in the direction of greener and more sustainable vehicles, including electric and hybrid cars.  But one emerging technology will use the term "air car" without giving its occupants flight.  This type of air car will instead be powered by air rather than soaring through it.

For years critics of the electric car have cited its limited distance as one of the key drawbacks to the system.  But as demand for an alternative to internal combustion grows, so does research funding for an alternative to improve the quality of car's range.  And now researchers at IBM's Almaden Laboratories say they may be on the right track to providing an answer - in the form of air.  Of course just like hydrogen fuel, the electricity will not spontaneously come from air, but will rather use air in the batteries to work with electricity generated elsewhere.

Taking the model, scientists ran the request through banks of supercomputers looking for the answer down to the most basic quantum level.  While the material's identity is under wraps, the chemical will run on a similar principle to that of air, leaping over the obstacles inherent in lithium batteries including their volatility and their limited power.  By 2013, the scientists are hoping their discovery will allow them to build a prototype ready for wider production by the end of the decade.  But while the electric car question does seem to be a bit more drastic now than it did when the first Chevy Volt line was canceled, it does seem there are more than a few kinks to work out.  But when they do, this is one of the ways the car batteries will be able to keep up with the current demands of people wanting electric car batteries that can operate for extended trips.

Better battery life would not be limited to cars, however, which may be one of the reasons IBM is taking an interest in the subject.  In addition to cars, improved batteries would finally allow the world of robotics to bring larger models into the wider world.  One of the biggest limitations of robotics has been the weight required to move the device around - and the battery is one of the heaviest parts of that.  With smaller more efficient batteries, larger robots inches closer to fully feasible for mainstream production.  With more range and output the number of electric devices increases significantly.

And if this seems like this development lacks in the sort of excitement we hoped for in the world of technology, consider also that personal air vehicles will also be influenced in the same way - possibly allowing for electrical flying vehicles such as Chris Malloy's flying hoverbike.  And of course lithium batteries are also used in most personal electronic devices, meaning in the tech savvy world of gadgets that too would improve significantly if this development ever got off the ground.


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