We sometimes think (in our age of progress) that if we look back, we must see very primitive creatures.
But even if we go back ten thousand years, we don’t find primitive humans. We find modern humans. Genetically, we have not changed very much in 10,000 years. What has changed? We have learned a huge amount of chemistry, biology, etc. Of course we didn’t know which bits were useful. It took a hundred years to figure out. That’s how science works.
The discoveries of past centuries created some rapid changes. Example of progress: within a few hundred years we went from knowing what gunpowder was, to seizing guano Islands, to synthesizing ammonium nitrate to nuclear weapons.
Ancient impulses with modern weapons are weird. I have this picture in my head of an angry person saying “I’m going to get that guy. I’m going to go lay claim to a guano Island, refine potassium nitrate, make black powder, and use an explosion to propel a small metal ball through his body.” Then the pre-modern human says “I’d just hit him with this rock. Simpler.”
A strange thing happened. I ate a Walmart fudge brownie, then some peanuts and drank some coffee. It tasted exactly like a memory of waiting for a table at Smitty’s with my grandparents. The yellow wavy glass, the vinyl bench, the smell of my grandmother’s perfume, the sound of silverware, the juice glasses with the distinctive bulgy profile… it all came back. It was clear in my mind to a crazy degree. It only worked once, though. No matter how many brownies I ate.
Unrelated: I’ve been doing some macro photography. I saw this weird moss and lichen on the top of a post. The vibrant red color is very interesting. I would love to know what the pigment is. The red nodules were about 2 mm in diameter. What a fun lens. It made me think of an old comic, A Softer World. So, I tried to make some things inspired by their style.
My wife and I took a drive up to the Temple of Power. It was pretty cool, and pretty much deserted. It’s a sculpture made from salvaged electrical equipment at the Gorge powerhouse. We saw an eagle fly over us while we were wandering around. It was pretty cold, but very pretty. In retrospect, I wish I’d captured video so I could do a vlog.
I saw that Netflix is Adapting the ‘Redwall’ Books Into Movies, TV Series. I liked those books as a kid. They got repetitive after a while, but I still remember parts of Mossflower very fondly. I read them at a point in my life when I didn’t want to like anything the other kids liked (I was a hipster before it was cool, bruh), but Redwall won me over. Wholesome good fun. I hope the new series takes the material seriously.
We took inspiration from the Edison cell iron electrode (invented more than 100 years ago). When iron oxidizes, it gives up electrons. In the Edison cell, those electrons are taken up by nickel. That transfer of electrons is what gives the usable electricity we want. To reverse the reaction and charge the battery, electrons are sucked out of the nickel and back into iron. But nickel is relatively expensive, and the Edison cell uses a concentrated and caustic alkaline electrolyte.
Back in 2017, we replaced the nickel with ferric iron and neutralized the electrolyte. This really hurts the energy density and performance of the battery. The energy was there, it just couldn’t discharge fast enough to give useful power. The plan was to use it for stationary applications, but it was still under-powered. It would take days to get all the energy out of Iron Battery 1.0. But it worked well enough to show that the idea was valid.
This low-power problem is called high internal resistance. So, the next step was to try to decrease the internal resistance. So, if we could reduce the distance the electrons had to travel, we should make a better battery. To help get the electrons close to the ferric iron, we added a lot of carbon black (a conductive carbon powder used in conductive inks). That’s how we made Iron Battery 2.0. It is a significant improvement in power, up to usable levels.
A single Iron Battery 2.0 cell can now deliver enough power to light up an LED (albeit with a little voltage booster circuit called a “Joule thief,” which has a great pun for a name). This is getting closer to practical level where this chemistry could store solar or wind energy on a larger scale.