Google has involved itself in the research and development of better batteries, which will be used to power up the company's devices as it expands deeper into consumer electronics.
Late in 2012, a team that was led by Ramesh Bhardwaj, a former battery expert for Apple, started to test batteries that were developed by other companies. These batteries were to be used for devices made by Google. About a year after that, the team started looking at battery technologies that could be developed by Google itself, sources said.
The team is a small one, with only four members, and part of the Google X research laboratory, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Over recent years, Google has entered different industries, including health care, transportation, communications and robotics, which have grown the company's need for efficient batteries. Two years ago, Google CEO Larry Page said that the battery life of mobile devices has become a major concern, which means that there is a potential to be had in the invention of better batteries.
Bhardwaj has revealed to certain industry executives that there are at least 20 Google projects that use batteries. Included in these projects is the self-driving car, which runs on electrically charged batteries. There is also the Google Glass, which reportedly suffered from a battery life that was too short. Another project utilizes nanoparticles in diagnosing diseases, and depends on a small monitoring device that is powered by a battery.
"Google wants to control more of their own destiny in various places along the hardware supply chain," said Formation 8 head of hardware strategy Lior Susan, adding that Google's recent projects require batteries that work more efficiently.
It is not only Google that is looking to make improvements on current battery technologies. Tesla, Apple and IBM are also dedicating research for this purpose. However, developments have been incremental, especially compared to the massive leaps being made in semiconductor efficiency.
The most recent developments in battery technologies are promising bigger gains though, with solid-state, thin-film batteries transmitting currents through a solid instead of a liquid to make them safer and smaller. While these batteries will be useful for small-sized devices, it is not clear if they can be cheaply mass produced, said Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researcher Venkat Srinivasan.
Bhardwaj's team is looking to further develop the lithium-ion batteries currently being used and the aforementioned solid-state batteries for use within consumer devices such as Google Glass.
As Google makes further advances in its various projects, the company will have to make sure that the developments in battery technologies will be able to keep up.