From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

December 2021
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Powerful Account of Lithium-ion Battery Development
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 4:38 pm

Have you read or even heard about Steven LeVine’s
Powerhouse,” a recent book capturing the trade-offs,
the financial-interpersonal-international conflicts and
technical challenges that solid state scientists,
electrochemists and engineers are dueling with in
developing lithium-ion energy storage devices for the
last 40+ years.

The technical challenges of packaging a high
energy density system of combustible components
that  maintains performance under real life extreme
situations for decades are given a true-to-life story line.

It tells of what it is like to develop an unknown combination
of materials, chemistries and system trade-offs set to
immense goals where an existing technology already
exists– the gasoline combustion engine.

He reveals
1.  how non-Americans are the preferred leaders and workers
2.  how American economic values undermine longer term
development projects
3.  how new ideas, counter to existing beliefs, come from
unanticipated sources
4.  how laboratory R&D oversimplifies what actually happens
in real life.  That real life protocols are essential in the
testing phases, before large scale production.
5.  how hype and apparent quick fixes shortcircuit many
things where small incremental improvements rigorously
tested are more important.

Companies start up and fail.  They have wonderful mission
statements but shortcomings overwhelm them.
The possible involvement of government lab facilities, even
a couple of formerly competing labs, and throw in government
sequestration, help make progress.  As the book reveals, goals
are “target statements” that are not always met.  Real progress
and transformational change may happen but not as
originally focused or by whom it was expected.

3 Responses to “Powerful Account of Lithium-ion Battery Development”

  1. site admin Says:

    From a review:
    As a PhD-level scientist working in the battery field, I have never
    before encountered science and tech journalism that so accurately
    captures the role of the scientist, our interactions and thought
    processes, as well as the pressures and complexities and global
    influences that extend from beyond the laboratory and influence
    the scientific and invention process! Most science/technology
    journalism is little more than glorified press-releases, spurred
    by academic publicity engines, highlighting just the talking
    points and neglecting the bigger picture.

    This book drops you smack in the middle of it on page 1, taking
    off the blindfold and exposing the vast, global landscape that has
    and continues to influence the course of scientific progress in
    energy technology.
  2. site admin Says:

    Optimistic review of battery projections.
  3. site admin Says:

    Economist article and comments on Lithium and flow
    batteries one for portable energy and the other for off-peak
    energy storage. |
    Comments point out some of the hype and inaccuracies.

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