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William Chueh: How to build a better battery

The renewable energy future is riding on the advent of better energy storage options that challenge the very definition of the word “battery.”

Close-up of a solar panel

A future filled with renewable solar and wind energy will require more and better batteries. | Stocksy/Adrian P Young

Stanford materials engineer William Chueh got interested in battery design as way to battle climate change.

He looked across the energy landscape and understood that a future filled with renewable solar and wind energy will require more and better batteries to even out the troughs when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.

Chueh says battery design has come a long way in the last 10 years. But sating the energy needs of a future filled with countless smartphones, laptops, electric cars and wearable devices will drive a profound transition in the battery industry. Today’s $50 billion battery market will blossom to a trillion dollars in the next 15 years, he predicts.

Chueh says the grid of the future will be a network of diverse smaller-scale energy-storage options that guarantees a steady supply of electricity with no single point of failure — a model that takes its inspiration from the way the internet delivers information without fail. The result will be a more efficient and resilient grid for all, Chueh says.

Join Chueh for a look into the future of batteries on this episode of Stanford Engineering’s The Future of Everything podcast with bioengineer and host Russ Altman.