Primal Numbers – Walrus and a Mop

In Alice in Wonderland, it’s pure fiction when the Walrus muses about sweeping up all the sand on the beach. What isn’t fiction, though, is incredible new technology that uses sand to power batteries. The breakthrough is good news for our energy-hungry world. But just as the Walrus gobbled up every last oyster in sight, could the sand one day disappear as well?

The remarkable discovery is the brainchild of Zachary Favors, a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside. As Science Alert reports, Favors was “relaxing after surfing” when he had the idea to extract the silicone from sand, purify it, and use it to create small lithium-ion batteries.

Favors’ sand-based batteries last three times longer than conventional ones, and there are enough deserts and beaches on the planet to keep business booming for years.

The idea is brilliant in its simplicity, and could be a real turning point in the push for cleaner energy. After all, there’s no need to poison the environment with tar sands or fracking when all that beautiful sand is just laying around for the taking.

Just imagine?sand?based batteries could power everything from electric cars to computers to houses. Forget about peak oil. If the technology is perfected, we could see a rush for sand that makes the frenzy of the Gold Rush look tame.

The trouble, as with most things humans decide they want, is that no matter how abundant a resource might be, we always seem to find a way to use it up. That might seem like an exaggeration, until we remember that for most of humanity’s time on earth, water was thought of as a resource without end. There were deserts, of course, and not everyone lived in an area with abundant water. But for the most part, we didn’t give much thought to managing water as a finite resource.

The same can be said for forests, fish, and the many forms of wildlife we’ve hunted to extinction. Who would have thought that wolves, once slaughtered with abandon, would, one day, need protection as an endangered species?

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be excited at the truly awesome potential of Favors’ invention. What’s not to like about a clean, easy-to access resource that could power everything from smart phones to pacemakers?

I only hope that humanity has finally learned its lesson about using resources wisely, no matter how plentiful they might seem. Otherwise, we could be surprised at how easy it really is to sweep all the sand from the beach.

S.D. Livingston is the author and creator of the Madeline M. Mystery Series for kids, as well as several books for older readers. Visit her website for information on her writing.

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