After catching up on Brendan‘s recent bloggings, I was pleasantly blown off my feet by recent progress in the field of exoskeletons. However, this serves to hilight the one area that will almost undoubtedly be the most important field of technological advances in coming years: power sources. The main problem with these exoskeletons and other autonomous devices is the lack of a suitably lasting and quiet power source. The noise you most often hear on a robotic prototype such as these is a constant BZZZZZZ noise — this is coming from a small, internal-combustion-engine powered generator. While these are certainly powerful enough, they are highly inefficient and more importantly, very noisy, which makes them highly impractical for many military applications.
Recent developments in batteries and other such direct energy storage devices is promising. Improvements in recent years allowed the construction of battery-powered rappelling devices, such as you’ve probably seen in James Bond, just much bulkier and not quite as sexy.
One particular type of battery that is particularly exciting is the carbon-nanotube ultracapacitor, which has made significant research progress in recent years. Essentially, using carbon nanotubes can increase the surface area of electrodes in a capacitor dramatically, allowing for sturdy, compact capacitors with an energy density equivalent to that of standard chemical batteries today. The main difference is, they last many times as long (since they undergo no actual chemical changes) and can be recharged and discharged in an extremely short period of time, and be capable of extremely powerful bursts of energy.
Other possibilities for quiet, portable high-powered energy sources might be something like fuel cells, which have been in the technological background for some time now. Remaining far too experimental and expensive for consumer use, they’ve dropped out of the public view for the past few years.
In a rapid change of topics, I recently purchased a gas-powered airsoft blowback pistol – a KWA Glock 18C, semi-automatic or full-automatic selectable. It’s very hard to have more fun with an airsoft gun than you can with a blowback gas pistol.
And on the anime front, Kimagure Orange Road is pretty dang good. Rest assured that this torrent download is 100% legal in the USA now that the license has run out. And don’t forget to watch the two movies, which finish off the series nicely (I’m taking Connway‘s word on this one).