Are Beans the OG Battery?

I am very interested in what the next battery breakthrough will be. Our lives are increasingly powered by batteries and they are a natural companion for renewable energy sources. (Also a necessary companion if you think about times when renewables can’t generate.) Our current lithium-ion batteries are great; except they aren’t power dense enough, rely on rare resources, and the extraction of these resources helps fund some not-so-great political regimes.

The next class of uber-companies could come from the battery disruption space (mark off your buzzword bingo cards). Algorithms will allow for faster searches and iterations of novel compound combinations. Electric cars will provide power instead of just taking. And mines will be turned into power plant tunnels to the bowels of the earth. Maybe we’ll also learn how to mimic more natural systems and turn plants into literal power plants by tapping into photosynthesis. (I’m a big fan of algae as an industry.)

But this is all a rambling introduction to a much less world-changing question I had the other day: are beans the original battery?

They are nutrient dense, easy to transport, extremely shelf stable, and don’t take much effort or energy to transform into a consumable version of energy for another system.

Now, I wasn’t around in the dried bean discovery days (shocker, I know), but I imagine it was a transformative change in food storage technology. They’re basically edible rocks (And sometimes contain rocks so be careful). To my mind, the only other food storage medium that comes close in terms of shelf life and stability is canning, and that isn’t nearly as energy efficient and easy as beans appear to be.

Now we aren’t going to power the electric grid with beans. (I’m really just assuming here because who knows what some scientist is toiling away on somewhere in obscurity right now.) But could we discover a system or chemistry that allows for the “dehydration” of energy into a solid, stable form factor that can power the grid if you “just add (salt)water”?

Worst case scenario we all just eat more beans and take a load off the food supply system. They’re good for you anyway. (As schoolchildren everywhere know, heart healthy.)


First published this back in my short-lived (and maybe soon to be resurrected?) newsletter PLNT LYFE


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