Power Dressers on the Way

Carl Weinschenk

There are two looming emergencies that relatively few people are paying attention to. One is the exhaustion of the current reserve of Internet addresses. The other is the inability of current powering technology to keep pace with increasing demand of smartphones and other portable devices.


I've covered IPv6 a good deal lately, as the controlling organization for addresses said that the percentage of IPv4 addresses remaining unclaimed has dwindled to the dire-sounding 10 percent range. Device powering hasn't made as much news. But there always seems to be intriguing-and downright cool-incremental advances in the device-powering field. This is particularly true as research aimed at battery-powered vehicles provides indirect stimulation.


Today, lithium-ion batteries dominate. Research, such as work done at Boston College aimed at extending usage time and otherwise extending battery life through the use of silicon-coated nanonets, is ongoing. Here is a good backgrounder on this type of power source.


There also is work on alternatives, and this is where the cool factor often comes in.


InformationWeek has a piece on research at the University of California on power-producing nanofibers that can be woven into clothing. The story says that the material, polybinylidene fluoride (PVDF), is cheap, easy to produce and flexible. The key is that PVDFs allow mechanical stress such as walking, turning or other manipulations to be converted into electrical energy.The story provides a lot of interesting details, including the fact that clothing used as energy generators isn't a new idea, and explains why the approach from the University of California-Berkeley is potentially more effective.


The technology that is garnering the most attention is the direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC). This nascent approach to powering mobile devices relies on the mixing of elements in the device rather than batteries' ongoing chemical reactions.


Last autumn, Toshiba distributed 3,000 units of its Dynario DMFC product in Japan. The release says that the energy is generated by methanol and ambient oxygen. Stuff.tv has some nice pictures and a story on the first display of the product to the West last week in London. At the same time, Toshiba unveiled SCiB, short for Super Charge Ion Battery, which the company claims has 10 times the life span of a traditional lithium-ion battery.

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