Bottled Lightning by Seth Fletcher

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Synopsis

The sleek electronic tools that have become so ubiquitous--laptops, iPods, eReaders, and smart phones--are all powered by lithium batteries. Chances are you've got some lithium on your person right now. But aside from powering a mobile twenty first-century lifestyle, the third element on the periodic table may also hold the key to an environmentally sustainable, oil-independent future. From electric cars to a "smart" power grid that can actually store electricity, letting us harness the powers of the sun and the wind and use them when we need them, lithium--a metal half as dense as water, created in the first minutes after the Big Bang and found primarily in some of the most uninhabitable places on earth--is the key to setting us on a path toward a low-carbon energy future. It's also shifting the geopolitical chessboard in profound ways.


In Bottled Lightning, the science reporter Seth Fletcher takes us on a fascinating journey, from the salt flats of Bolivia to the labs of MIT and Stanford, from the turmoil at GM to cutting-edge lithium-ion battery start-ups, introducing us to the key players and ideas in an industry with the power to reshape the world. Lithium is the thread that ties together many key stories of our time: the environmental movement; the American auto industry, staking its revival on the electrification of cars and trucks; the struggle between first-world countries in need of natural resources and the impoverished countries where those resources are found; and the overwhelming popularity of the portable, Internet-connected gadgets that are changing the way we communicate. With nearly limitless possibilities, the promise of lithium offers new hope to a foundering American economy desperately searching for a green-tech boom to revive it.

 

About Seth Fletcher

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Seth Fletcher is a senior editor at Popular Science magazine. His writing has also appeared in Men’s Journal, Outside, Salon, and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn.
 
Published May 10, 2011 by Hill and Wang. 273 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Business & Economics, Computers & Technology, Professional & Technical, Science & Math. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Bottled Lightning

Kirkus Reviews

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The author provides an entertaining, surprisingly eventful history of human efforts to harness energy in the form of battery power since the days of Alessandro Volta, focusing closely on latter-day genius and evangelist John Goodenough, who worked on lithium oxides beginning in the 1950s but whos...

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Publishers Weekly

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Electric cars are real—see the Tesla Roadster, Chevy Volt, and hybrids like the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius—but the drive to create safe, lightweight, and long-lasting batteries to power them has been anything but smooth.

Feb 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Bottled Lightning

The Wall Street Journal

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Despite the advantages of lithium-ion batteries, Mr. Fletcher observes, car companies had shied away from them because of their tendency to ignite.

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The Wall Street Journal

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To speed along the success of the electric car, improvements in battery chemistry will matter as much as the price of oil.

May 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Bottled Lightning

Bookmarks Magazine

From electric cars to a “smart” power grid that can actually store electricity, letting us harness the powers of the sun and the wind and use them when we need them, lithium—a metal half as dense as water, created in the first minutes after the Big Bang and found primarily in some of the most uni...

May 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Bottled Lightning

Time Out Chicago

And as Popular Science editor Fletcher demonstrates in his new book, subtitled “Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy,” it’s not so much a question of who’s killing the electric car anymore, but rather what’s the holdup.

Jun 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Bottled Lightning

Foreign Policy

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May 17 2011 | Read Full Review of Bottled Lightning

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