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March 18th, 2013

Due to the nature of our business, CRE has a much bigger “battery footprint” than many other fBatteriesirms—think of our iPad rental inventory alone! Today’s Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries power more and more devices daily, while depending for their production on ever-decreasing supplies of such mined metal ores as cobalt. In fact, 30% of the world’s total cobalt supply is already used in battery manufacturing. Clearly, the world needs more green energy of every kind, and recent breakthroughs in nanotechnology should hasten the arrival of an honest-to-goodness, paradigm-shifting green battery. Here are three potential game-changers.

Plant power

A natural plant dye extracted from the roots of the madder plant, purpurin is the unlikely basis for an entirely new kind of “green” battery. Chemists and researchers from Rice University, City College of New York, and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory reported on a purpurin-powered, non-toxic, sustainable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery in the journal Nature‘s online, open access publication Scientific Reports in December 2012.

Research continues into other organic molecules’ potential for batteries, but the work is far more complicated than the simple, high-school-level chemistry process for purpurin. An affordable, long-lasting (say, 12-18 hours of movies on tablet PC rentals), and “seriously green” Li-ion battery is still a few years down the line, factoring in time to optimize purpurin’s efficiency and/or synthesize similar compounds. It is “definitely going to happen,” say the Rice University scientists.

Power walk

Among Physics World magazine’s top innovations of 2012 is a breakthrough battery that charges itself. Developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT), the battery converts kinetic energy (motion) into chemical energy. You could produce energy for your MacBook, camera, or phone by walking with the battery in your shoe, for instance. We’ve blogged about similar technologies, but until this new approach was developed, kinetic energy (motion) would be converted into electricity first, then into chemical energy for storage. The new method converts motion directly into stored chemical energy.

This new technology is five times more efficient than previous systems, significantly shrinking the size and weight of the manufactured battery. It can easily be used in all types of devices, and its (projected) super long life makes it perfect for motherboard duty (you know that your iMac or PC has a battery or two, right?). The new battery doesn’t generate much electricity yet, but researchers claim the first retail-ready product will be roughly equivalent to today’s 1.5V units.

Jammin’ with jelly

Ian Ward, a professor at the UK’s University of Leeds, has invented a new polymer gel (a.k.a. jelly) that will enable the creation of a new kind of lithium battery—lighter, cheaper, and more efficient than existing types. A simple, low-cost process turns the gel into flexible, thin film that will lie between a battery’s electrodes, dispensing with the usual multiple cells separated by polymer film. Ward told IT Pro magazine that the weight and size reductions alone made the new technology a winner, but mentioned two additional benefits—the new batteries are safer than the old ones, and cost about 10% as much to make.

Since they have no liquid electrolytes, the new batteries can’t explode and thus can’t start any fires. Even a first-rate, “certified green” firm like Hewlett-Packard can get blindsided by battery trouble. In 2010 the company recalled over 50,000 batteries after a few burst into flames (and into the headlines). The electrolyte liquid is what you see burning in YouTube videos of “flaming PCs,” so replacing it with the new polymer gel will vastly improve safety. Eventually, of course, all of this R&D will lead to safe, cheap, all-solid-state batteries.

CRE has everything you need, from audio visual (AV) equipment rentals to the high-tech gear you need for post-production. The solutions to your challenges—on-site, on the road, or at a conference—are all right here. Call an experienced Account Executive at (877) 266-7725, send us a message, or (if you know what you need) visit our Quick Rental Quote page. We are always ready to help you!

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