Car batteries powered by relativity

Jan 14, 2011 By Lisa Zyga feature
Scientists found that 80-85% of the voltage of a lead-acid battery is due to relativistic effects. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

(PhysOrg.com) -- French physicist Gaston Plante invented the lead-acid battery in 1859 – almost 50 years before Einstein developed his theories of relativity. Now scientists have found that the lead-acid battery, which is commonly used in cars, strongly relies on the effects of relativity. Specifically, the scientists calculated that 1.7-1.8 volts of the lead-acid battery’s 2.1 volts (or about 80-85%) arise from relativistic effects.

The physicists and chemists who performed the study – Rajeev Ahuja, Andreas Blomqvist, and Peter Larsson from Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden, and Pekka Pyykkö and Patryk Zaleski-Ejgierd from the University of Helsinki – have published their results in a recent issue of .

"This is a new, well-documented case of 'everyday relativity,'" Pyykkö told PhysOrg.com. As the scientists noted in their study, the finding essentially means that "cars start due to relativity."

The lead-acid battery is the oldest type of rechargeable battery, with the main component being lead. With an atomic number of 82, lead is a heavy element. In general, relativistic effects emerge when fast electrons move near a heavy nucleus, such as that of lead. These relativistic effects include anything that depends on the speed of light (or from a mathematical perspective, anything that involves the Dirac or Schrödinger equations).

The lead-acid battery contains a positive electrode made of lead dioxide, a negative electrode made of metallic lead, and an electrolyte made of sulfuric acid. Through their calculations, the scientists found that the battery’s relativistic effects arise mainly from the lead dioxide in the positive electrode, and partly from the lead sulfate created during chemical reactions.

The discovery of relativistic effects in the lead-acid battery also sheds some light on why no corresponding “tin battery” exists. In the periodic table, tin is located directly above lead and has an atomic number of 50, making it lighter than lead. According to the scientists’ calculations, a tin battery would basically be a lead battery with very minimal relativistic effects. Although tin and lead have similar nonrelativistic energy values, tin’s small relativistic effects prohibit it from being used in an efficient battery.

As the scientists noted, relativistic effects have been found in other areas, such as the perennial yellow color of gold and the liquidity of mercury, although the latter is still not very well proven.

Overall, the scientists predicted that this understanding of ’s importance to the lead-acid battery will probably not help researchers improve the ; however, the insight could be useful for exploring better alternatives, especially those that involve any sixth period element (found in the sixth row of the periodic table, like lead).

Explore further: Thermoelectric power plants could offer economically competitive renewable energy

More information: Rajeev Ahuja, et al. “Relativity and the Lead-Acid Battery.” Physical Review Letters 106, 018301 (2011). DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.018301

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alq131
1.6 / 5 (8) Jan 14, 2011
It's not really clear from the article, if lead's relativistic effects add only 1-2v to the battery, and Tin would "basically be a lead battery without the relativistic effects" then wouldn't it follow that you could just add another cell in the battery to add 1-2 volts? Surely something else must be going on, like chemical ability to charge/recharge a Tin battery in some acid or something?
Royale
4.7 / 5 (7) Jan 14, 2011
They're saying that each cell would have 15-20% of the voltage of lead. Of course you could add another cell, but why on earth would you want to invent a weaker/larger battery? You could make one with Uranium too, and get even more power per unit volume than lead. That would be radioactive, though. Thus the reason they haven't done it. Re-read the article. .3 to .4 volts is what each cell would have if you used tin instead of lead.
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (5) Jan 14, 2011
As usual this article is very sketchy. The way I read the article, they are talking about a 2.1 volt battery, with relativistic effects accounting for 1.7-1.8 volts of of the total voltage. Thus, a 12-volt lead-acid battery would have six 2-volt cells, while a tin-acid battery might need 60 cells.

At least that's my understanding. If you follow the link to the article you will find out that only a brief extract is available without charge.
soulman
3.5 / 5 (8) Jan 14, 2011
If you follow the link to the article you will find out that only a brief extract is available without charge.

No pun intended?
Vld122
not rated yet Jan 14, 2011
Standard electrode potentials of the tin and lead are -0.14 and -0.13 respectively. -0.14 is not equal of -0.13 The cell voltage depend on electrolyte. Dou to these 2 or may be other unknown for me factors scientists obtained the mismatches.
gvgoebel
5 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2011
Phht. Any magnet demonstrates relativity. Magnetism is just the relativistic aspect of the electric force.
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (2) Jan 14, 2011
Soulman,
No pun was intended. By the way, I was shocked when I discovered the charge.
electrodynamic
not rated yet Jan 14, 2011
I don't know where this came from, or where it's going, but the models I saw of how a cell works only ever mentioned chemistry before. This material reacts with that material creating a new material, and you get an extra electron, so voltage potential. If your going to write an article at least tell us how it fits into the reality we already know.
electrodynamic
not rated yet Jan 14, 2011
Does the relative effect they mention somehow raise the energy level of the orbiting electrons in these atoms. Some clarification would be nice.
KBK
not rated yet Jan 14, 2011
Phht. Any magnet demonstrates relativity. Magnetism is just the relativistic aspect of the electric force.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A Slim Whitman record for that man!

Now, take a battery and immerse it in a long cylindrical magnet with a single pole core.

You will get a VERY notable increase in the lifespan of the battery, as compared to another, outside of the magnet.

You can do that test all day and on 100's of different batteries. The anomaly will not disappear.

Think about it.
daqman
not rated yet Jan 15, 2011
This is one of those places where physics and chemistry meet. Lead has a massive nucleus with a high electric charge. If you look at the wave functions describing the electrons some of them have a high probability of the electron being close to the nucleus which gives the electron a high enough energy that relativity comes into play. The overall effect is that the energy levels in the atom, which determine it's chemistry, are not what you would predict without taking relativity into account. Without relativity the chemistry of a lead acid battery would give only a fraction of a volt per cell rather than 2.1 volts.

What is satisfying about the paper is that the calculated voltage matches reality very well but only if you take relativity into account.
KBK
1 / 5 (4) Jan 16, 2011
Where physics and chemistry meet, is in the purposely buried aspects of --alchemy.

Alchemy is about consuming a monatomic orbitally deformed (created through extreme pH chemistry) PMG element and this bonds to the DNA. US naval academy says that DNA is superconductive, look it up. This bonding of the deformed orbital element has 'one leg in this dimension and one leg in the next'. Thus it 'supercharges' DNA to something outside of relativistic considerations. Oddly enough, the materials in the battery are like that of alchemy..... Duh. Alchemy has to be done at specific times, for the same reason that Nukes show different yields according to planetary alignments and position on the globe. (seriously, look it up). Also, see my earlier comment.

Detractors: Use your head, not your angst. I'm not crazy, you don't want your reality disturbed by these considerations, so you lash out instead of researching. Smart people always look into anomalies, as that's where the answers hide.
mrwolfe
5 / 5 (3) Jan 16, 2011
@KBK "Smart people always look into anomalies, as that's where the answers hide". So far, this is the only thing you have said that makes any sense at all.
brianlmerritt
not rated yet Jan 17, 2011
Did anyone read the piece where one ounce of nano foam can cover 3 football pitches?

A commenter there speculated a possible use of the carbon based foam in new battery technology.

Is there a reason not to combine the relativistic effect with lead above? Could a foam carbon and lead lace create a new energy storage cell?
alysdexia
not rated yet Jan 17, 2011
General relativity has to do with fastness; special relativity has to do with swiftness.

This story makes no sense. The enthalpies of formation for tin compounds are bigger than for lead. Tin sulfate, dioxide, and monoxide's yields are more than lead sulfate, dioxide, and monoxide's.
milford30
not rated yet Jan 18, 2011
General relativity has to do with fastness; special relativity has to do with swiftness? please explain it doesn't make any sense..

General relativity has to do with fastness; special relativity has to do with swiftness.

This story makes no sense. The enthalpies of formation for tin compounds are bigger than for lead. Tin sulfate, dioxide, and monoxide's yields are more than lead sulfate, dioxide, and monoxide's.

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