Demanding Apps Push Fuel Cell, Battery Innovation

Carl Weinschenk

Mobile devices that run demanding multimedia applications tend to run out of steam quickly. Last week, according to ZDNet, the journal Nature Nanotechnology published research from Stanford University about a new approach that uses silicon nanowires to recharge the lithium ion batteries used in laptops, iPods, mobile phones are other devices. The piece says the potential is to multiply a battery's typical four-hour charge of today by a factor of 10.


The good news is that many rewards exist for those who solve vital problems. This tends to create many solutions. Over the last few years, fuel cells have emerged as an alternative to batteries. At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month in Las Vegas, Angstrom technologies introduced the EverOn fuel cell. Angstrom says its fuel cell offers twice the run time of today's batteries and can be recharged in about 10 minutes. Previously, fuel cells were so chunky that they required modifications to fit into handheld devices. The EverOn, the company says, solves this problem and has been integrated into Motorola's MOTOSLVR L7 device. Angstrom says that it has completed a six month test of the fuel cell, which uses the company's Micro Hydrogen platform.


Here, BusinessWeek does its usual efficient job of creating a context. The company profiles French company Bic -- the pen and lighter company -- in the sector. Bic hopes to leverage its traditional strengths in a new arena and manufacture the millions of cartridges that would be needed by fuel cells. The story also provides a handy differentiation between fuel cells and batteries: Batteries store energy while fuel cells create it by mixing separately stored ingredients.


While all this future technology seems promising, mobile device users must deal with the world of today. This piece at wikiHow -- which essentially is a compilations of lists -- makes the point that the overall goal of battery advancement consists of two interrelated factors: increasing time between charges and prolonging the life of the battery.


Among the many tips for increasing the time between charges are turning the phone off when possible; not searching for signals; using the ring tone instead of vibration mode and turning off the backlight. The story also offers lists of battery failure indicators and warnings and general battery tips.


Here is a take at Techorism on extending battery life. It includes a good paragraph on how batteries produce energy and discusses the memory effect. Essentially, when a battery repeatedly is recharged at the wrong point it "forgets" that it has the ability to fully discharge and its capacity degrades. Lithium-Ion batteries shouldn't be fully discharged, however; the best point is when they are at 40 percent capacity. They shouldn't be stored at above 60 degrees Celsius and kept dry and cool.

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