When you think about the most eco-friendly items in your home, batteries might not be the first things that come to mind. Even if you have rechargeable batteries for your flashlight and some of your kids’ toys, you probably throw away a significant number of batteries each year.
Fortunately, the future of batteries is proving to be sustainable. Check out the following innovative examples:
1. Using the Body’s Largest Organ as a Power Source
The idea of “smart wearables” is gaining in popularity; this includes devices like smartwatches, like the fitbit alta HR, and Bluetooth headsets, along with “smart clothes” like bras or shirts that can actually track your breathing, heart rate and more. To power these smart wearables, scientists are developing a battery that uses the electricity that we have on our skin. Tests on this amazing new battery, which harnesses the power of friction, have found that a finger tap on the skin will light up 12 LED bulbs. Specifically, an electrode is used to capture the current from the skin; a 50 nm-thick gold film is placed below a silicone rubber layer that is made up of scads of small pillars that allow more surface area for skin contact.
2. Quick-Charge Technology
Not that long ago, a dead battery on a smartphone meant having to plug the device into an outlet and using 30 to 60 minutes’ worth of energy to power it back up. Now, thanks to some pretty nifty technology, you can charge up your devices up to five times faster. For example, the Quick Charge technology that is included in Qualcomm’s fastest mobile processors is designed to deliver uber-fast charging to phones and smart devices that feature the Snapdragon mobile processors. Called “5 for 5,” this innovative technology will give you up to five hours of charge time after only five minutes of being plugged in. This will not only reduce the amount of time you have to wait while your phone is tethered to an outlet, it should also reduce your energy usage and bill.
3. Solid-State Batteries That Are Safer
Researchers have discovered solid-state batteries that are better in a number of ways than the currently available lithium-ion batteries. In addition to being safer, they should last longer before needing to be replaced, and will be more powerful. The new rechargeable batteries, like those made by Solid Power, will be able to be charged hundreds of thousands of times before wearing out and going to the landfill; they can also offer up to 30 percent more power, which means whatever they are charging will keep on going that much longer. Because the solid-state rechargeable batteries are also inflammable, they will be a terrific choice for electric cars.
4. Improving Lithium-Ion Technology
While solid-state batteries offer a number of eco-friendly features, Visual Capitalist reminds us that lithium-ion batteries have also seen plenty of green improvements. For example, lithium-ion batteries are expected to increase their capacity by 6 to 7 percent every year for the foreseeable future. These advancements in lithium-ion energy are the direct result of changing the quantities of aluminum, cobalt, manganese and nickel that are in the cathodes. Scientists are experimenting with these materials to see which combination creates the best and longest-lasting cathode. In addition, improvements made to the anode may help the lithium-ion batteries to last longer and be more efficient; researchers are currently testing silicon anodes that would have a capacity that is 10 times larger than current graphite anodes.
5. Flexible Battery
A team from Arizona State University was inspired by the Japanese paper-folding art of origami to come up with a flexible type of energy storage technology. The team is using a variation of origami called Kirigami as a design template for batteries that can be stretched for more than 150 percent of their original size while still being fully functional. Using the principles of Kirigami as a guide, the team developed lithium-ion batteries that feature a number of folds and cuts that make patterns that allow the battery to stretch and flex. As the article notes, the team sewed a prototype of the battery into an elastic wristband that was part of a smart watch. As the band stretched, the watch’s many functions were fully powered. Like the aforementioned skin-powered batteries, these stretchy and flexible batteries could also be sewn into smart clothing. Smart wearables could eventually be powered by this slim and stretchy battery, as opposed to the more bulky traditional battery that takes more resources to manufacture.
As time goes on, it will be interesting to see how these advancements in battery technology will have a positive impact on our lives and the planet. By using “smarter” and more efficient batteries to power our smartphones, cars and clothing, we will ultimately throw fewer of them into the landfill and enjoy safer and more eco-friendly power sources.
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock