Can Artificial Intelligence Produce A Better Battery For Your Laptop?
PC Gamer|December 2021
Can Artificial Intelligence Produce A Better Battery For Your Laptop?
Ian Evenden

We are, as a society, addicted to many things. Tiktok, Call the Midwife, the easy and free dissemination of information and the purchase and fetishisation of PC parts ( just us?) But there’s one thing that, if it vanished overnight, would put us back into the stone age (or at least the 1980s, which is more or less the same thing).

We’re talking about the lithium battery. They power our smartphones, our earbuds, our laptops, and increasingly our cars. We use them because of their high energy density and the fact that the chemical reaction that pumps out the volts is reversible, so they can be recharged, but there are a few issues with them – they’re not great for the environment, for one thing, as its extraction involves mining salt flats. Up to 70% of the world’s lithium is thought to be in a roughly triangular area below Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, and its extraction sees gallons of water (did we mention this is one of the driest areas of the world?) pumped below the ground to bring salt to the surface, where it’s left to evaporate in huge salt pans for months at a time.

Up to 18 months later, once the salt has been filtered enough, you’re left with the lithium carbonate, but the by-products include manganese, potassium, and borax, which aren’t great if you get them into your water supply.

The extraction of one ton of lithium can use 500,000 gallons of water, a fact that upsets the local quinoa growers and llama herders, and which has left the Bolivian Rio Grande delta drying out.

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